Twenty-five years ago, on October 21, 1992, the Verkhovna Rada, in a move to appease student protests in Kyiv, voted to create a parliamentary committee to examine the question of a referendum and an election of new municipal council heads. The students, organized as the Union of Ukrainian Students (SUS), demanded Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), multi-party parliamentary elections and the formation of a reformist government of “national trust.” The tensions intensified on October 13 and 16 when SUS demonstrators violently clashed with OMON troops and police, with tens of students sustaining injuries. The All-Ukrainian Organization for Workers Solidarity (VOST) announced its support for SUS’s demands. At a joint meeting on October 17 at Independence Square that was attended by 5,000 people, VOST issued a statement calling for the dissolution of Ukraine’s Parliament and the prosecution of officials responsible for militia brutality against the demonstrators. The referendum committee was created during a closed session of Parliament as a compromise to SUS’s modified demand for municipal and parliamentary elections.
Ten years ago, on October 14, 2007, Ukraine marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) as an official holiday. President Viktor Yushchenko on October 12 issued a presidential decree authorizing local governments to plan events to commemorate the UPA’s founding, provide benefits and awards to veterans, and support educational campaigns about the UPA. It was the first time Ukraine had officially marked the UPA anniversary. During the celebrations in Kyiv, which coincided with the Feast Day of the Protection of the Mother of God, more than 3,500 UPA veterans and supporters gathered for an evening concert at the Ukrayina National Arts Palace. Prior to the concert, UPA veterans huddled on the steps of the concert hall and sang UPA songs.
Sixty years ago, on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union got the jump on the United States in what would later be called the “space race” when it had successfully launched into orbit the first man-made satellite – Sputnik. The launching of Sputnik was also a confirmation, as claimed by the Kremlin, that the Soviets indeed possessed the technology to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. Clarence A. Manning, a regular contributor for The Ukrainian Weekly, noted in a commentary: “The United States has treated this as a scientific process and has not regarded it as a race. The Soviets again in accordance with their policy did so and when they launched the satellite without warning, they blandly explained that this was not the promised satellite for which they had contracted. They were well aware that its effect upon the entire world would be even greater, if they broke their agreement than if they had done everything in due and proper order. Once again they were right and they have followed it up with renewed threats against Turkey and the free world and in the diplomatic sphere they have again taken a long step to strengthen their position especially in the Middle East.
Two years ago, on September 27-28, 2015, several hundred protesters (nearly 1,500 during the two days), including Ukrainians, Georgians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Circassians and others, gathered outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York to protest the arrival of President Vladimir Putin. It was the first time in 10 years that Mr. Putin had chosen to address the opening of a session of the U.N. General Assembly. Within the U.N. General Assembly main hall, a silent protest where activists, parliamentarians and diplomats unfurled a battle-scarred Ukrainian flag from the 2014 fighting in Ilovaisk, caused those protesters to be removed from the gallery. As the protesters were being escorted out of the main hall, the gathering of demonstrators outside chanted “Crimea is Ukraine,” and “Justice for MH17.”
During the street demonstration, protest leaders highlighted complaints against Mr. Putin and Russia, including Russia’s ongoing military conflicts in eight distinct zones, Mr. Putin’s willful violation of the U.N. Charter by invading Ukraine, and the growing list of political prisoners who are being held in many of Russia’s most infamous prisons. Organizing the protest, the American European Solidarity Council partnered with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America to mobilize Ukrainians beyond New York City.
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.
Two years ago, on September 16, 2015, Ukraine’s Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution that called for urgent reform of the United Nations Security Council, in which Russia, one of five permanent members, holds veto power. In its statement, the Verkhovna Rada said, “There is convincing evidence of the urgency to reform the veto [system] to prevent its abuse.” Too often, it said, veto power has been used to “cover up the crime of aggression by a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.” The resolution urged U.N. member states to take “all possible measures to stop the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
In July 2015, Russia blocked a resolution by the Security Council that would have established a tribunal to try those suspected of responsibility for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 people aboard. Russia also blocked a resolution in July of that year that would have declared the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 that killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys, to be genocide. In 2014, Russia vetoed a resolution criticizing the Russian-orchestrated secession referendum in Crimea. The Ukrainian campaign was an effort to build on a French movement to persuade the other four permanent Security Council members – Britain, China, Russia and the United States – not to use their veto when action is required to address a mass atrocity.
Twenty years ago, on September 5, 1997, leaders of the European Union came to Ukraine and urged Ukraine’s leaders to restart the country’s stalled reform programs.
European Commission President Jacques Santer and Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, the holder of the EU’s rotating presidency (who is now president of the European Commission), flew into Kyiv for several hours for the first-ever meeting between the leaders of the EU and Ukraine. Although the meeting was called a “summit,” it was more like a “getting to know you” affair, Mr. Juncker acknowledged. “This first meeting was not merely symbolic, it allowed us to get to know one another,” he said at a press conference with Mr. Santer and Ukraine’s president Leonid Kuchma. The EU leaders brought with them a pledge of $100 million in aid from the EU for containing Chornobyl reactor No. 4, which was deteriorating.
Twenty-six years ago, on August 31, 1991, the musical group Hrono from Ukraine, with frontman Taras Petrynenko, entertained more than 2,000 people at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center during the Labor Day weekend festivities. It was the first time the band had performed since Ukraine declared independence, just a few days earlier on August 24. “I don’t know whose soul will be tapped by what I do, but my people are awakening from a deep slumber and I must help them in some way,” Mr. Petrynenko said. “I’m not sure if Ukrainians here, the Ukrainian American youth understand all my lyrics, but the music speaks to them. Music is somehow intertwined with our people, with our history, with our future.”
The stage show, complete with fireworks, smoke and a light show, featured songs written by Mr. Petrynenko, including “The Chornobyl Zone,” “The Popular Movement,” “Left Bank, Right Bank,” and the memorable hit “Ukraino,” which became a veritable anthem.
Forty-nine years ago, on August 20, 1968, the Soviet Union sent in troops from the Warsaw Pact nations to crush rising anti-Soviet protests in Czechoslovakia, led by Czech leader Alexander Dubcek. Mr. Dubcek called for greater political freedom, including more participation by non-communist parties, pushing for free market economic policies and greater freedom from Soviet domination in what came to be known as the “Prague Spring.”
On the night of August 20, more than 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops crossed into Czechoslovakia, headed for Prague. The Soviets occupied the country within just over a day, and within a week, nearly three-quarters of a million Soviet troops were in Czechoslovakia. Due to the brutality of force used by the Soviets, thousands of Czechs fled the country. In Washington, Dr. Lev Dobriansky, chairman of the Captive Nations Committee and president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, called on the United States to voice outrage at the United Nations and elsewhere, and to seek U.N. intervention in Czechoslovakia.
Nine years ago, on August 14, 2008, following the Russian invasion of Georgia, U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), co-chairs of the House Georgia Caucus, announced their intention to introduce a resolution in Congress calling on the International Olympic Committee to find a new venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics that were scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia. The resolution stated that Sochi – a mere 20 miles from the current conflict zone – made it a practically unacceptable location for the Olympics and that had the IOC been aware of these circumstances at the time of awarding the Games to Sochi that they would not have selected it as an Olympic venue. “The Russian Federation’s invasion of the Republic of Georgia and its actions against its democratically elected president violates international standards,” said Rep. Schwartz. “Russia must realize that its actions in Georgia will not be ignored by the international community.