WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on March 27 introduced a resolution condemning illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine and urging the president to maintain sanctions on Russia as long as it continues its military aggression in the country. The resolution follows the three-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea earlier in March. “The United States must stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression,” said Sen. Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “The anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea is an opportunity to highlight the continued challenges Ukraine faces, as well as the fundamental principles of the U.S.-led international system at stake.
NEW YORK – The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America in a letter dated March 22 urged U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to visit Ukraine during his upcoming European trip in April. “As the bastion of democracy in the free world, the United States must take definitive action to help stabilize the transnational, trans-Atlantic security framework, which clearly serves our national interests as Americans. It is our firm belief that such a visit would reaffirm the United States’ steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and would signify that the United States supports its strategic partner’s sacrifices in the face of continued Russian aggression,” reads the letter signed by UCCA President Andrew J. Futey and Executive Secretary Marie Duplak. The letter also notes:
“Ukrainian Americans, along with the Central and Eastern European ethnic communities of the United States, stand united in their support for the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This support mirrors official U.S. policy, passed into law under the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, to ‘assist the government of Ukraine in restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to deter the government of the Russian Federation from further destabilizing and invading Ukraine and other independent countries.’
“The U.S. Department of State recently reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to a sovereign and whole Ukraine, continuing official U.S. policy not to recognize the Russian Federation’s illegally attempted annexation of Crimea and its continued violation of international law.
WASHINGTON – For those in the U.S. capital area actively interested in finding a resolution to the dire situation Ukraine and other countries find themselves in because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pursuit of military aggression and an active disinformation policy, the Atlantic Council think tank discussion “Connecting Ukraine’s Past and Present – from Holodomor to the War in Donbas,” was a great step forward to a better understanding of how and why that situation developed as it did and what needs to be done to resolve it. The panel and open discussion on February 21, moderated by Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Timothy Fairbank, included Michael Sawkiw, director of the Ukrainian National Information Service; Naphtali Rivkin, a research fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Nadia McConnell, president of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation; and John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. As Mr. Sawkiw pointed out in his opening remarks, Russia’s use of disinformation is not something new. He noted that French writer Marquis de Custine, who traveled to Russia often in the mid-1800s, indicated in his book “Letters from Russia”: “Russia lies, Russia denies the facts, makes war on the evidence, and wins.”
And that “informational war” continues today, Mr. Sawkiw said. The Soviets denied until the 1980s – about the time when Ukrainian Americans started raising the issue in this country – that Stalin launched the Holodomor, the artificially created famine in the 1930s that killed millions of Ukrainians.
NEW YORK – “Securing Ukraine’s Sovereignty: The Road Ahead” was the title of a daylong academic conference held on February 15 at the U.S. Library of Congress that was organized by the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations (CUSUR) in collaboration with the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). Over two dozen leading voices on national security, international diplomacy and government affairs spoke in a roundtable format, discussing the damage done to European security and international law by Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine, and debated what advancements had been made in the areas of diplomacy, economic reform and the military readiness to protect Ukraine from future attacks. Conference attendees gathered in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, where, prior to the first roundtable, select government representatives arrived to offer greetings. The CUSUR team, led as always by Prof. Walter Zaryckyj, ushered in Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), co-chairs of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, who both hailed the community for organizing an event of such importance. Taking over his brother’s seat in both Congress and the caucus, Rep. Fitzpatrick remarked on the incredible bipartisan support for Ukraine he has already witnessed in Congress.
WASHINGTON – On Sunday, February 26, United Help Ukraine Vice-President Oksana Osipova joined with U.S.-Ukraine Foundation President Nadia McConnell and representatives of Russian, Belarusian, Baltic and American organizations and addressed the group of people that gathered across the street from the Russian Embassy in Washington to commemorate the life and work of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian politician, statesman, outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his undemocratic and authoritarian regime, and an outspoken supporter of Ukraine. Two years ago, on February 27, 2015, Nemtsov was assassinated in Moscow near the Kremlin. The Magnitsky Act Initiative and the Free Russia Foundation have outspokenly stated that the Putin regime is responsible for his murder. Nemtsov had compiled an extensive report detailing the takeover of Crimea by Russian troops and their participation with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. He supported Ukraine’s sovereignty, visited the Maidan in Kyiv and addressed at a mass gathering in Moscow denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine.
WASHINGTON – Ukrainians in gathered on February 20 in the heart of the U.S. capital, near the Lincoln Memorial, for a vigil commemorating the heroes of the Heavenly Brigade. The event, which was attended by members of the Ukrainian community and diplomats from the Embassy of Ukraine, started with mournful Lemko folk song “Plyve Kacha.” It was with this song three years ago that the fallen Ukrainian heroes went on their last journey from the Maidan in Kyiv. In his address to participants of the vigil, the ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, said that we, Ukrainians, must be worthy of the memory of the participants of the Revolution of Dignity, who gave their lives for a decent future for Ukraine. Ambassador Chaly stressed that the struggle for Ukraine continues against Russia’s ongoing aggression. He thanked everyone for their unity and solidarity with Ukraine.
NEW YORK – On February 15, a full-day conference will bring together over two dozen leading voices in national security, diplomacy and government affairs from the United States, Ukraine and Europe to discuss the damage done to European security and international law by Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine, as well as what advancements have been made in the diplomatic, political, informational, economic and military spheres to protect Ukraine from future attacks. The event, titled “Securing Ukraine’s Sovereignty: The Road Ahead,” will gather at the U.S. Library of Congress (101 Independence Ave. SE) and will feature four panel discussions, as well as addresses by numerous congressional and government officials. A highlight will be a presentation on pressing questions for the new administration regarding Ukrainian security. The conference will be preceded by a special evening reception at the Embassy of Ukraine to the United States on February 14 with Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin of Ukraine in attendance.
WASHINGTON – The outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has accused Russia of engaging in aggressive and destabilizing actions that she says are threatening the rules-based international order. Samantha Power made the remarks on January 17 at the Washington-based Atlantic Council in her last major speech as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She cited the illegal seizure by Russia of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the Kremlin’s intervention in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, support of the Syrian government in that country’s war, and efforts to influence elections in Western democracies through computer hacking and misinformation campaigns designed to influence public opinion. Ambassador Power said: “Russia’s actions are not standing up a new world order. They are tearing down the one that exists.”
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.”
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.