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.

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Military parade in Kyiv celebrates Ukraine’s independence

KYIV – Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day on August 24 with a military parade in which defense ministers and troops from Britain, Georgia, Estonia, Canada, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania and the United States participated. “I have confidence in our allies,” President Petro Poroshenko said, as he thanked them for being in Kyiv on this day. The president also noted: “I am confident in our army, which is now at its best. This is, by the way, an assessment of European think tanks. However, there is still much work to be done to strengthen and modernize it, and to get it fully compatible with NATO standards.” Mr. Poroshenko also underscored that “Ukraine is ready to repulse the aggressor severely in case of its attempts to launch an offensive.

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.

Remarks by Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Kyiv

Following is the text of remarks (as delivered) by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Kyiv He spoke alongside President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the Presidential Palace on August 24. The transcript was released by the U.S. Department of Defense. Mr. President, it is an honor to stand alongside you on Ukraine’s Independence Day as a tangible demonstration of our unity and solidarity. Have no doubt, the United States stands with Ukraine. We support you in the face of threats to your sovereignty and territorial integrity, to international law and to the international order.

Debate is picking up on the question of expanding military support for Ukraine. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated that providing additional forms of assistance, including lethal defensive weapons, is under active consideration in Washington. I hope as a friend of Ukraine that the U.S. will decide to lift former President [Barack] Obama’s ban on lethal defensive weapons in order to give Ukraine the means to defend itself. This would give more support to Ambassador [Kurt] Volker in his efforts to achieve a negotiated solution. The Russians recognize that they are not going to be able to maintain the status-quo including their daily attacks on Ukrainian forces with impunity.

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Students bolster staff at Soyuzivka Heritage Center

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – Soyuzivka Heritage Center has had another successful season under the management of General Manager Nestor Paslawsky and the assistant manager, Stefko Drabyk. In addition to the regular staff of employees, Soyuzivka had 28 students working this summer. Of these, 17 arrived from Ukraine to work in the U.S. on the J-1 Work and Travel Visa. This is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and coordinated for Soyuzivka by Bohdana Puzyk. Soyuzivka has benefited from this program for the past nine years.

Celebrating independence

Ukrainian Independence Day this year surely turned out to be one to celebrate. And for several reasons. First of all, there was the impressive military parade in Kyiv – minus the heavy weaponry that had proceeded down the Khreshchatyk last year. This year’s parade featured various military units proudly marching down the capital city’s main boulevard to the cheers, and tears, of onlookers. There were many Ukrainian soldiers, veterans and cadets, but what was perhaps most notable was the participation of military units from abroad, including those from the United States and Canada.

September 5, 1997

Twenty years ago, on September 5, 1997, leaders of the European Union came to Ukraine and urged Ukraine’s leaders to restart the country’s stalled reform programs.

European Commission President Jacques Santer and Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker, the holder of the EU’s rotating presidency (who is now president of the European Commission), flew into Kyiv for several hours for the first-ever meeting between the leaders of the EU and Ukraine. Although the meeting was called a “summit,” it was more like a “getting to know you” affair, Mr. Juncker acknowledged. “This first meeting was not merely symbolic, it allowed us to get to know one another,” he said at a press conference with Mr. Santer and Ukraine’s president Leonid Kuchma. The EU leaders brought with them a pledge of $100 million in aid from the EU for containing Chornobyl reactor No. 4, which was deteriorating.

26TH ANNIVERSARY OF UKRAINE’S INDEPENDENCE

Press statement on Ukraine’s national day

Following is the full text of the press statement by U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson released on August 24 for Ukraine’s Independence Day. On behalf of the government of the United States of America, best wishes to all Ukrainians on your national day. As I said in Kyiv last month, we deeply value the friendship we have developed over 25 years of diplomatic relations. We commend your persistence in the face of great challenges, including the Russia-led conflict in Donbas and Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea. Despite the hardships you have endured, the people of Ukraine have shown a fierce determination to create economic opportunities, fight corruption and strengthen their democratic institutions.

Helping Ukraine defend itself, Kerch Strait, NATO

“We should help Ukraine defend itself,” by Stephen Blank, The Hill, August 18 (http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/international/347125-why-we-should-help-ukraine-defend-itself):

The decision whether or not to provide Ukraine with weapons has now reached the White House. Both the State Department and Pentagon approved this policy and Kurt Volker, President Trump’s special envoy for Ukraine, has also done so. Nevertheless, opponents of this policy have again flooded the media arguing against giving Ukraine these weapons. …

Russia already is and will be provoked whatever we do. But doing nothing encourages it to continue escalating its aggression against Ukraine as it has done with relative impunity.