Kyiv moves to label Russia as aggressor in Donbas war

KYIV – Ukraine last week took a legislative step closer to reflect the fact that Russia is waging war against this nation of 42.5 million people – an unprovoked invasion that saw Crimea annexed and 3 percent of the easternmost Donbas region occupied by Kremlin-led forces nearly four years ago.

On October 6, the Verkhovna Rada passed a law in the first of two readings that names Russia as an aggressor state pursuant to international conventions and enables the armed forces to better defend the nation’s sovereign territory.

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Neighbors balk at new education law that reinforces Ukraine’s state language

KYIV – Ukraine’s new law on education, which the Presidential Administration says is more inclusive towards minorities and will improve their integration into society, has received backlash from at least three countries in the region.

Russia, Hungary and Romania, all of which have sizable or concentrated minority enclaves in the country, have criticized the law that President Petro Poroshenko signed on September 25 and which went into effect three days later.

At the Invictus Games gala welcoming Team Ukraine on September 23 (from left) are: Maryna Poroshenko, President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ukrainian Canadian Congress Vice-President Alexandra Chyczij and UCC National President Paul Grod.

Ukrainian Canadian community wants Canada to lead U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ukraine

OTTAWA – The national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) has called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take the lead in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine.

Following a September 22 meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Toronto, Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters at a joint news conference with both leaders that a U.N. mission could ensure that “people are able to live their lives in peace and security in a way that upholds the principles of international law that, quite frankly, Russia violated with its illegitimate actions.”

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.

Poroshenko to make repeat bid for U.N. peacekeepers in Donbas

KYIV – Historically, Ukraine has been in the top tier of contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions in conflict zones worldwide. Now, one of the intergovernmental body’s truce contingents might land in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has waged an unprovoked war since April 2014, a month after it illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was to leave Kyiv on September 15 to attend the 72nd session of the U.N. General Assembly, and he plans to address the U.N. Security Council next week. At the podium, post-Soviet Ukraine’s fifth president is scheduled to repeat the proposal he made more than two years ago: to send U.N. peacekeepers to the war-torn easternmost regions of Donetsk and Luhansk amid two internationally brokered ceasefires that never took hold since February 2015. Then, the West, namely Germany and France – which were integral in cementing a truce between Kyiv and Moscow – weren’t keen on the idea.

Vasyl Bondar, 42, spent nearly nine months in the frontline town of Shyrokyne in Donetsk Oblast in a marine unit during his yearlong tour of duty.

Ukraine’s Donbas war veterans fight invisible foe of post-combat stress

KYIV – Vasyl Bondar faced a new foe when he came home from a tour of duty in a Ukrainian naval forces unit that included nearly nine months in the frontline Donetsk Oblast town of Shyrokyne where he often faced shelling from Russian-led forces.

Returning to civilian life in November 2016, the 42-year-old native Kyivan started fighting an enemy that was at once invisible and elusive.

Back-to-school ceasefire fails to take hold as Europe braces for Zapad military drills

KYIV – When the school year resumes on September 1, the more than 200,000 children living in the Donbas war zone will face life-threatening conditions. More than 54,000 children live in the Ukrainian government-controlled part of easternmost Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts alone, according to the United Nations. Like other interim truces within the larger Minsk peace agreement, the back-to-school ceasefire that was supposed to come into force at midnight on August 25 has failed to hold. Despite backing from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who spoke by telephone on August 22, fighting continues along the 450-kilometer demarcation line in the war-torn area comprising 3 percent of Ukraine’s dismembered territory. One Ukrainian fighter from a volunteer unit has been killed so far, according to activists helping the war cause, and at least four have been wounded.

The stage for Ukraine’s 26th Independence Day celebrations is set on Kyiv’s Maidan.

Kyiv awaits Trump’s decision to arm Ukraine as it celebrates 26 years of independence

KYIV – Since late July, Pentagon and State Department officials have said plans to arm Ukraine are ready and awaiting White House approval. Ukrainians hold high hopes for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision, which they say will not only change the situation on the ground, but also send a strong signal to Moscow and give Ukrainian troops a much-needed morale boost. The arrival of the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Kyiv to mark Ukraine’s 26 years of independence has led to speculation that a decision by the White House is imminent. In the plans devised by U.S. officials, Ukraine would be supplied with defensive lethal weapons. Currently being discussed are Javelin anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The president of the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, Larissa Kyj (center, left), is presented a thank-you letter by Lt. Col. Yuriy Podolyan on behalf of the Kharkiv Military Hospital. The UUARC was able to buy $140,000 worth of rehabilitation therapy equipment for injured soldiers being treated at three hospitals thanks to a donation by the late Gregory Malinowski.

Criticism shifts to Ukraine’s authorities, while Russia’s war in the east continues

With the war so far away for most, the Ukrainian population’s attention has turned away from Russia and the war to the failures of Ukraine’s authorities and the country’s economic woes. KHARKIV, Ukraine – The Kharkiv Military Hospital has settled into the routine of this simmering war. Around five to 10 patients arrive each week. The head doctors say eight out 10 soldiers admitted, which include those sick as well as wounded, recover – though not necessarily psychologically. The injured soldiers lie bandaged up on modern-looking hospital beds.

Crimean Tatar Akhtem Chiygoz faces eight years in prison for displaying a Ukrainian flag.

Despite sanctions, Russia further quashes dissent, human rights in occupied Crimea

KYIV – The persecution of ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean-Tatars and Russians who take pro-Ukrainian stances by the occupying Kremlin regime in Crimea continues unabated and is reaching anomalous proportions.

“Neglect of human rights [on Ukraine’s territory of Crimea] is coming to an unprecedented scale, cynicism and absurdity,” said Crimean Tatar leader and lawmaker Mustafa Dzhemilev on August 9.