U.S. calls on Russia to release Umerov

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.

President Petro Poroshenko with Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and cadets.

Poroshenko visits U.S. Military Academy at West Point

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.

Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly welcomes a crowd of some 500 guests to this year’s reception honoring the 26th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence and the upcoming 26th anniversary of Ukraine’s diplomatic relations with the United States at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington.

Washington events focus on Ukraine and the importance of U.S. support

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.

U.S. orders Russia to close Consulate General in San Francisco, plus two diplomatic annexes

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.

Putin names EU-sanctioned diplomat as Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

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.

President Trump signs Russia sanctions bill, calls the law “flawed”

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.

House of Representatives overwhelmingly passes Russia sanctions bill

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill expanding sanctions on Russia on July 25 by a vote of 419-3. The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (HR 3364) sanctions Iran, Russia and North Korea for their dangerous and belligerent actions that undermine the United States and its allies. The bill has an additional North Korea component that the original Senate bill did not have, but it is expected to pass in the Senate with the original bipartisan support. The Senate had passed its version of the sanctions bill by a vote of 98-2 back on June 15. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill allow Congress to block the administration from unilaterally lifting or scaling back sanctions imposed against Moscow.

Kurt Volker

UCCA requests meeting with Volker, U.S. special representative for Ukraine

NEW YORK – As the world’s attention lingered on the G-20 summit of last week, Ukraine hosted numerous international visitors the next weekend, including: U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), which represents nearly 1.5 million Americans of Ukrainian descent, has respectfully requested a meeting with Ambassador Volker following his weeklong visit to Ukraine to discuss his new appointment as the United States special representative for Ukraine negotiations. News of Ambassador Volker’s appointment was welcomed by the UCCA, as it signifies that the U.S. continues to support its strategic partner in the face of continued Russian aggression. The UCCA believes that a strong, democratic and independent Ukraine remains in the national security interests of the United States. Ukraine today stands as the only non-NATO partner nation to have contributed actively to all NATO-led operations and missions for the past 20 years, a fact not unfamiliar to Ambassador Volker, a former ambassador to NATO.

Janusz Bugajski (left) of the Center for European Policy Analysis with panelists (from left) Herman Pirchner of the American Foreign Policy Council, Luke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation and Stefan Romaniw of the Ukrainian World Congress.

Ukraine’s performance better than expected in 2016-2017, with room for improvement

WASHINGTON – At the fifth annual yearly summit of the U.S.-Ukraine working group, the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations (CUSUR) presented an expanded program with over two dozen scholars, diplomats, and foreign and military affairs experts addressing a rapt audience in Washington. In a conference room located one city block west of the White House, six ambassadors – five former and one current – joined with the current chairman of Ukraine’s Parliament, Ukraine’s acting minister of health and a sitting U.S. senator to “take the measure of Ukraine’s 2016-2017 progress/regress.”

Pass the Senate’s Russia sanctions bill in the House of Representatives

On June 14th, the U.S. Senate passed a crucial amendment to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (S. 722) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2. S. Amend. 232 adds new sanctions targeting various sectors in Russia’s economy and sanctions individuals affiliated with Russia’s defense sector. Critically, all existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea and its military invasion of Ukraine would become codified into law under this legislation.