WASHINGTON – A top U.S. State Department official said the administration was committed to meeting a February deadline to specify new measures against Russia officials and influential businessmen for Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. The December 12 remarks by Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, come amid doubts that President Donald Trump will fulfill the sanctions that were backed by Congress in legislation passed earlier this year. After an October deadline was missed, Republican and Democratic senators pressed the Treasury Department and the White House to move forward on the measure. The next deadline is February 2, when the Treasury Department is supposed to release a list of Russian officials and Kremlin-connected business leaders to be targeted for restrictions. That could include limitations on financial transactions with banks, real estate brokerages and other institutions.
WASHINGTON – The Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations (CUSUR) hosted its 18th roundtable conference in Washington, continuing on a theme established three years ago – “Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood.” Over the course of the late morning and afternoon on October 12, 20 scholars and diplomats took part in two panel discussions and three highlight presentations focusing on the issue of “Social Cohesion in Contemporary Ukraine.”
WASHINGTON – Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) on November 8 announced the formation of the Victims of Communism Caucus for the 115th Congress (2017-2019).
The Victims of Communism Caucus is a bipartisan group of members of Congress dedicated to raising awareness of how communism victimized and enslaved more than 100 million people in the past and how its tyranny in the five existing Communist countries – China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam – and its legacy in the post-Soviet sphere shapes international relations today.
WASHINGTON – The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation has announced the launching of its Biotechnology Initiative, which will support the advancement of biotechnology in Ukraine. The program is supported by an initial gift of $250,000 by a foundation donor, Irene Hoffman. The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation is a publicly supported 501(c)(3), not-for-profit non-governmental organization established in 1991 to support democracy, a free market and human rights for Ukraine. Over the course of 26 years, the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, with offices in Washington and Kyiv has directed over $43 million to build peace and prosperity through shared democratic values in programs focusing on economic development, education, health and humanitarian aid, and public policy. Discussions have already been taking place with Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly with the intent of maximizing efforts for the initiative and helping Ukraine focus on its specialization development strategy for biotechnology.
The United States has called on “Russian occupation” authorities in Crimea to release prominent Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov and vacate his conviction for separatism. The State Department denounced Mr. Umerov’s conviction and two-year prison sentence in an October 3 statement, saying, “This compounds past injustices in the case, including his confinement for several weeks of punitive psychiatric treatment in 2016.”
The statement added that the Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in March 2014, “remains an integral part of Ukraine, and the United States remains steadfast in its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.”
Russian-appointed judges in Symferopol, the Crimean capital, found Mr. Umerov guilty on September 27 and sentenced him to two years in a colony settlement, a penitentiary in which convicts usually live near a factory or farm where they are forced to work. The sentence was harsher than that sought by prosecutors, who had recommended a three-year suspended sentence with a ban on all public activities for three years. Mr. Umerov said he would appeal the ruling all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. The European Union called Mr. Umerov’s sentencing “a serious violation of his human rights, another example of persecution of the Crimean Tatar community.”
Ukraine described the verdict as an “illegal and politically motivated sentence” which it said violated Mr. Umerov’s human rights.
WEST POINT, N.Y. – President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the course of his recent working visit to the United States. He had a chance to interact with the academy’s leaders as well as students. In his meetings at the academy on September 19, Mr. Poroshenko underscored that Ukraine is struggling both for its land and for the freedom of the world. “The whole world is with us and we have an effective instrument – sanctions against the Russian economy,” he noted in response to questions posed after his address to the student body. He also explained that “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and aggression in the east of my country completely destroyed the post-war world security, which was based on the U.N. Security Council, “ adding that “one of the permanent members of the Security Council, who has the right to veto, became an aggressor.”
The president also reminded his listeners that in 1994 Ukraine gave up the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, having received guarantees of security from the signatories of the Budapest memorandum.
WASHINGTON – U.S. relations with and future support for Ukraine was the focus of two important gatherings in the nation’s capital held in recent days.
The first, a massive reception held September 12 in the very spacious hall of the U.S. Institute of Peace, was hosted by the Embassy of Ukraine to mark the 26th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence and the upcoming 26th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States.
PARSIPPANY, N.J. – The United States has ordered Russia to close its Consulate General in San Francisco and two other diplomatic facilities in the U.S. in retaliation for the expulsion of American diplomats and staff from Russia. Also ordered closed were a chancery annex in Washington and a consular annex in New York. The announcement came on August 31 in a press statement released by State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. The statement read:
“The United States has fully implemented the decision by the government of the Russian Federation to reduce the size of our mission in Russia. We believe this action was unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed Anatoly Antonov, a veteran diplomat who is under European Union sanctions for his role in Moscow’s interference in Ukraine, as ambassador to the United States. The appointment of Mr. Antonov, who has served in both the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Defense Ministry of Russia, was announced on the Kremlin’s website on August 21. Mr. Antonov, 62, has been a staunch public advocate of Russia’s assertive foreign policy in recent years and is seen as a tough negotiator on issues, including arms control. In February 2015, the EU added Mr. Antonov to a list of Russians targeted by sanctions over Moscow’s takeover of Crimea and backing for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The EU said he was “involved in supporting the deployment of Russian troops in Ukraine.”
Canada and Ukraine have also imposed sanctions on Mr. Antonov, who was a deputy defense minister from February 2011 to December 2016.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on August 2 signed into law a bill strengthening sanctions on Russia and limiting his ability to lift them. However, he called the bill “significantly flawed” and signaled that he might not fully implement the sanctions. The legislation was passed by both houses of Congress with sizable majorities that ensured lawmakers could override any potential veto by the president. With strong bipartisan support, the measure amounted to a muscular assertion of Congress’s foreign policy powers and a rebuke of Mr. Trump’s repeated calls for a more conciliatory approach toward Moscow, in particular. “My administration will give careful and respectful consideration to the preferences expressed by the Congress in these various provisions and will implement them in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations,” he said in a statement released by the White House.