An increase to $350 million in security assistance to Ukraine

WASHINGTON – According to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2017, which was passed on December 8, the amount authorized to be provided for security assistance to Ukraine, including lethal assistance, is up to $350 million. That is a $50 million increase from the amount authorized in the NDAA of 2016. Security assistance and intelligence support for Ukraine has been expanded to include equipment and technical assistance to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine for the purpose of developing a comprehensive border surveillance network, as well as training for staff officers and senior leadership of the military. The defense bill now awaits signing by the president. The Embassy of Ukraine in the United States noted: “We appreciate the bicameral and bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress for Ukraine in our fight against the ongoing Russian aggression.”

Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO John Lansing (center) and RFE/RL President Thomas Kent (right), listen to recorded comments by RFE/RL Crimea journalist Mykola Semena at the 2016 David Burke Awards ceremony in Washington.

RFE/RL Crimea journalists win David Burke Award

WASHINGTON – The Broadcasting Board of Governors has recognized the professionalism and courage of the RFE/RL Ukrainian Service’s Crimea desk by presenting it with the 2016 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award. RFE/RL President Thomas Kent accepted the prize on behalf of the journalists in a ceremony on December 1 presided over by BBG Chief Executive Officer John Lansing. Mr. Kent said the Crimea desk’s work provides “a lifeline for audiences in Crimea cut off from reliable local news” and “serves audiences everywhere that want the truth about what’s happening on the peninsula.”

The BBG paid special tribute to Crimea desk contributor Mykola Semena, who is under house arrest in Symferopol on charges of “extremism” brought by the peninsula’s Russia-backed authorities. Mr. Semena, whose arrest prevents him from leaving the peninsula to receive urgently needed medical care, was awarded the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum’s Pavel Sheremet Journalism Award in absentia in Brussels on November 28, and the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine’s Igor Lyubchenko Press Freedom Award on November 2. Launched in March 2014, just days after Russia annexed the peninsula, the Crimea desk, known locally as Krym.Realii, is virtually the only remaining independent news source on the peninsula.

At the panel “New Realities: Redefining U.S. Strategy towards Russia and Ukraine” (from left) are: Ian Brzezinski, Atlantic Council; Ambassador Temuri Yakobashvili, New International Leadership Institute; and Ambassador Kurt Volker, McCain Institute.

Initiating a dialogue with the next president of the U.S.

WASHINGTON – The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF), in partnership with the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN), transmitted a set of initial policy recommendations to the Trump-Pence transition team. USUF President Nadia K. McConnell wrote to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence as the head of the transition team: “Support for Ukraine has always been and is today a bipartisan position, in the belief that a successful Ukraine is in the interest of the United States. We trust that a Trump-Pence administration will not only continue this support but increase it in a meaningful way. Because we have obligations under the Budapest Memorandum, where Ukraine gave up the world’s third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in exchange for assurances regarding Ukraine’s sovereignty. Support is also needed to address the humanitarian crisis and to recognize the great commitment, resilience and growing capacity of the people of Ukraine who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom with dignity in defense of their own interests and ours.”

The FOUN, an initiative of USUF, an informal coalition of former ambassadors and leading experts with an active interest in U.S.-Ukraine relations, has prepared a set of policy recommendations for the next administration, as well as for the next Congress.

Ukraine’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, discusses the successes and challenges experienced in Ukraine and other countries after the collapse of the USSR.

Leonid Kravchuk speaks in Washington about historic break-up of the USSR

WASHINGTON – Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of the independent Ukrainian state established 25 years ago after the break-up of the Soviet Union, came to the U.S. capital last weekend to discuss that historic event, how it has progressed since then and what can be expected in the future. “I can give you a lot of examples of mistakes that were made, but Ukraine lives on,” he told a large gathering on November 18 at the Atlantic Council that came to hear him, and two other post-Soviet leaders – the first president of Belarus, Stanislau Shushkevich, and the first deputy prime minister of Russia, Gennady Burbulis – discuss the “Soviet dissolution, the birth of nations and the successes and challenges 25 years later.”

Despite the many challenges it has been receiving from Russia, Mr. Kravchuk stressed that “Ukraine is growing and doing so in a democratic way, in a European way, and now Ukraine cannot be pushed off this path.”

Not unexpectedly, the issue that came up most often during the discussion was the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. “The question of Crimea is very painful for Ukraine. And the idea that Crimea has always been Russia is an illusion,” Mr. Kravchuk said, pointing out that until 1789 Crimea was a part of the Ottoman Empire. “So the question of who Crimea has historically belonged to is not so easily answered.”

He pointed out that today’s world is based on a few “great principles: sovereignty, territorial integrity and untouchable borders.” Those principles – of which the United States is considered to be a major guardian – must be adhered to if the world is to remain that way, he added.

Participants of the 21st Regular Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A.

UOC of the U.S.A. Sobor announces Strategic Plan for future

SOUTH BOUND BROOK, N.J. – The 21st Regular Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A. (UOC-U.S.A.) was held at the Metropolia Center on October 19-22. Metropolitan Antony introduced the Strategic Plan for the Church, explaining how crucial it is that everyone participate in order for it to be successful. A vibrant presentation by Bill Marianes, filled with eye-catching photos and verses, made it clear that it is the very future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is at stake. The plan includes goals in the realms of administration, clergy, communications, education, family and youth, healthy parishes, outreach and evangelism, stewardship and technology. At the beginning of the Sobor, a divine liturgy was celebrated at St.

Former UCCA President Tamara Olexy (right) with the first lady of Ukraine, Dr. Maryna Poroshenko, in Kyiv.

Outgoing president of UCCA reflects on challenges of her eight years in office

Tamara Olexy served two terms (eight years) as president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. The UCCA’s recent Congress of Ukrainian Americans elected Andriy Futey as her successor, and our Kyiv colleague Mark Raczkiewycz spoke with him via Skype about his new role (See “Newly elected president of UCCA speaks about the tasks ahead,” in the October 16 issue of The Ukrainian Weekly). This week, we publish an interview with Ms. Olexy focusing on the accomplishments and challenges of the previous eight years. The interview was conducted via e-mail by Roma Hadzewycz. 

Ms. Olexy holds a master’s degree in political science from The George Washington University; as an undergraduate student she double majored in political science and history at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. 

She served as the director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (1990-1995); was an American advisor for Burson-Marsteller’s National Market Reform Educational Project in Lviv (1995-1996); and worked as a consultant specializing in project development of health programs, cultural exchanges and humanitarian assistance for such clients as New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Albert Schweitzer Institute for Humanities, and conducted intercultural training programs designed for relocating employees for such companies as Prudential and CARTUS (1996-1998). Ms. Olexy has served as executive director of the UCCA National Office in New York since 1998. 

First of all, we’re curious, how did it feel to be the first woman president of the UCCA?

UCCA initiates presidential questionnaire on Ukrainian American issues

WASHINGTON – In preparation for the upcoming November 8 presidential election, the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington, D.C. public affairs bureau of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), initiated a questionnaire to the presidential candidates. Several Ukrainian American activists volunteered their services and expertise to create a list of questions and series of documents to send to the candidates about the Ukrainian American issues. The documents consisted of an overview of legislative actions in support of Ukraine, a statistical abstract of Ukrainian American and Central and East European ancestry in the United States, and a five-part questionnaire. The issues covered in the questionnaire include topics that have been a part of public discourse in Washington since the Revolution of Dignity – military assistance to Ukraine; sanctions against Russia for its illegal annexation and invasion of Ukraine; combatting Russian disinformation; NATO membership for Ukraine; and U.S. support for reform efforts in Ukraine. Each question in the questionnaire was preceded with an overall statement about the topic followed by a series of questions.

At the presentation of the Shevchenko Freedom Award (from left) are: Myron Antoniw, Anna Barrett, Roman Fedkiw, Andriy Futey, Sen. Rob Portman, Marta Liscynesky Kelleher, Yosyf Ciszkewycz, Vasyl Liscynesky, George Jaskiw and Petro Tvardovsky.

Portman receives Shevchenko Freedom Award

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) received the Shevchenko Freedom Award, the highest accolade awarded by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the nation’s largest representation of Ukrainians in America. As noted by the UCCA, the award, named after Ukraine’s poet-laureate and national hero Taras Shevchenko, is awarded to individuals who have displayed a remarkable understanding and given substantial assistance to the Ukrainian American community and the Ukrainian people. Sen. Portman, a co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, has persistently advocated for the United States to play a more active role in helping Ukraine stave off Russian aggression. The Shevchenko Freedom Award was presented in recognition of “his continued support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and for pursuing steadfast relations with Ukraine in recognition of its vital importance to trans-Atlantic peace and security.”

The senator released the following statement:

“I am honored to receive the Ukrainian community’s highest honor from the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America for my work to support Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and friends of Ukraine across the globe. I am proud of my long-established record of support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian American community, as well as for the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Helsinki Commission honored for decades of work on Ukraine

WASHINGTON – At the 2016 “Ukraine in Washington” forum on September 14, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation recognized the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, known as the Helsinki Commission) for four decades of support for Ukraine and Ukrainian dissidents. “Long before Ukraine’s independence and the formation of the House and Senate Ukraine Caucuses, we must remember there was the Congressional Helsinki Commission,” said Robert McConnell, co-founder of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. “It was doing everything possible to shine international klieg lights on Ukraine’s human rights issues, from its political prisoners to the illegality of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.”

The Helsinki Commission has a long history of supporting Ukrainians’ aspirations for human rights and democracy, even prior to independence, when Ukraine – the largest non-Russian republic in the Soviet Union – was viewed as a particular threat to Moscow’s rule. Since 1991, the commission has been a strong supporter of the development of an independent, secure, democratic Ukraine. The commission was instrumental in introducing and ensuring passage of the original resolution calling for the U.S. to recognize Ukraine’s independence in the face of State Department opposition.

Laura Rosenberger (front row, fourth from left), foreign policy advisor to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, at a meeting with ethnic American leaders in Philadelphia.

Ethnic leaders attend briefing on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy

PHILADELPHIA – A foreign policy briefing by Laura Rosenberger of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign took place on September 18 at the law firm of Schnader, Harrison, Lewis in Philadelphia. Laura Rosenberger, as she informed the gathering, is the sole foreign policy advisor at the Hillary campaign; she develops the campaign’s national security policies. Ms. Rosenberger served over a decade in a range of foreign policy and national security positions at the State Department. The roundtable meeting was organized by John McCarthy of the Hillary for America campaign. The co-organizers were: Steve Rukavina, a Croatian American; Lindy Li, an Asian American; Kris Walski, a Polish American; Marwan Kreidie, an Arab American; and Ulana Mazurkevich, a Ukrainian American.