2014: A convention year and more for the UNA

For the Ukrainian National Association, 2014 began with the announcement in January of the UNA’s 38th Regular Convention to be held May 15-18 at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center. It was also the year the UNA, the world’s oldest and largest Ukrainian fraternal organization, marked the 120th anniversary of its founding. Our readers know this organization as the publisher of this newspaper (founded 1933) and our sister publication, Svoboda (founded 1893). Others know the UNA as the owner of the Soyuzivka Heritage Center. Many others know the UNA as the provider of solid life insurance, endowment and annuity products.

Europeans keep Russia sanctions amid growing terrorist attacks

KYIV – European leaders decided this week to pursue extending existing sanctions against Russian politicians and enterprises, and to consider a new round after the deadliest attack on civilians in Ukraine thus far that occurred in the city of Mariupol on January 24. The European Union’s Foreign Ministers Council voted on January 29 to recommend extending Crimea-related sanctions until September and imposing new economic sanctions. The day before, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to extend sanctions restricting Russian activity in the organization until the end of April. The measures were welcomed by Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and its PACE delegation, which fiercely lobbied for them amid intense Russian efforts to lift them. Yet, the Europeans have begun to reveal doubts about their sanctions approach, which so far has only restrained, not deterred, Russia’s military aggression and terrorism in Ukraine.

Congressional Ukrainian Caucus introduces resolution calling for release of Savchenko

WASHINGTON – U.S. Reps. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) – all members of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus – on January 26 introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for the release of Ukrainian fighter pilot and member of Ukraine’s Parliament Nadiya Savchenko. This resolution is part of the global community’s effort to bring attention to her plight and demand her immediate release. “We continue to call on Russian authorities to immediately release Nadiya Savchenko from custody. We are gravely concerned by reports of her ill health since the commencement of a hunger strike on December 14, 2014, now into its seventh week.

Washington events honor Ukraine’s unity, protest Russian terror, support Savchenko

WASHINGTON – Hundreds of Ukrainian Americans came together at three events here to honor Ukraine’s historic struggle for its unity and independence, and to express their support for Ukraine’s current fight against Russia’s attempt to undermine it again. The series of gatherings began on Friday, January 23, when the Embassy of Ukraine hosted an evening reception honoring Ukraine’s historic 1919 “Day of Unity.” It was followed by two demonstrations: in front of the White House on Sunday afternoon, January 25, in support of Ukraine’s current fight against Russian aggression, and on Monday, January 26, in front of the Russian Embassy, demanding the release of Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian military pilot imprisoned in Russia who has been on a hunger strike since mid-December. In his remarks at the Day of Unity reception at the embassy, Ambassador Alexander Motsyk noted that the January 22, 1919, signing of the “Akt Sobornosty,” which for the first time united the eastern and western parts of Ukraine into one country, was the realization of a centuries-old dream of the Ukrainian people. Unfortunately it didn’t last long, he added, and Russia brought eastern Ukraine back under its control. And now, he said, two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Ukraine regained its independence, it is once again the subject of Russian aggression, with Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and participation in the separatist fighting in Ukraine’s eastern regions.

Lavrov unilaterally reinterprets ceasefire agreement with Ukraine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had hoped to see the Minsk armistice process rehabilitated at the Normandy Group’s January 21 meeting in Berlin (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, January 22, 23). Prefacing that meeting of the German, French, Russian and Ukrainian ministers of foreign affairs, Ms. Merkel declared: “The Minsk agreement remains, of course, the basis for talks. All partners, including Ukraine and Russia, continue adhering to the Minsk agreement, and I hope that this will remain so” (Bundeskanzlerin.de, January 21). That statement overlooked the evidence that Russia had de facto scuttled the September 2014 Minsk agreements soon after their signing. But, even as Ms. Merkel was grasping at straws in Berlin, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov overtly reneged on the Minsk armistice terms, in a public statement in Moscow.

U.S. to provide Ukraine $2 B in loan guarantees

KYIV – The United States has pledged $2 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine to help Kyiv with “near-term social spending” this year, and said it was ready to step up sanctions against Russia if needed. The loan agreement was signed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalia Jaresko in Kyiv on January 28. Mr. Lew said the loan guarantees were contingent on Ukraine continuing with fiscal and anti-corruption reforms and remaining on track to meet the conditions of its loan program with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An IMF delegation is now in Kyiv negotiating a bailout package that is currently worth $17 billion. The European Union earlier this month made a similar pledge of 1.8 billion euros ($2.1 billion U.S.) to strengthen Ukraine’s economy.

Newsbriefs

Rada labels Russia as “aggressor state”

KYIV – Ukraine’s Parliament on January 27 adopted a statement branding Russia an “aggressor state,” a move that deputies hope will pave the way for punishment under international law. The Verkhovna Rada also voted that day to define separatist self-styled “people’s republics” in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as “terrorist organizations,” and to appeal to the international community for additional nonlethal military aid and stronger sanctions against Russia. Russian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Grigory Karasin called the Ukrainian statement “thoughtless and irresponsible,” and said it was aimed at blocking efforts to end the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian rebels that has killed more than 5,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014. (RFE/RL)

Poroshenko to Putin: Free Savchenko 

OSWIECIM, Poland – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called on his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to release the jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko. Mr. Poroshenko told Polish media on January 27 that he had sent a letter to Mr. Putin with the appeal.

Ukrainians carol at Canadian prime minister’s residence

OTTAWA – Ukrainian Canadian carolers performed traditional Ukrainian Christmas and New Year’s carols – “koliady” and “shchedrivky” – at the Canadian prime minister’s residence here on January 8. At the beginning of the Ukrainian Christmas season (January 7 to 19, according to the Julian calendar), a group of carolers composed of members of Ottawa’s Akord Ukrainian Men’s choir performed a series of carols in Ukrainian. Weathering bone-chilling weather in Ottawa, the carolers arrived at 24 Sussex at 6 p.m. They greeted Laureen Harper with the traditional Ukrainian Christmas greeting, “Khrystos Narodyvsia,” and then asked “Do you welcome carolers?” Mrs. Harper invited the group into her home and the carolers sang “Dobryi Vechir Tobi.” The carolers then performed “Po Vsiomu Svitu Stala Novуna” (Throughout the World, a New Event). This was followed by a traditional Ukrainian Christmas greeting, a “vinshuvannia,” recited in English by Michael Reshitnyk. The choir then continued the performance with “Na Sviatyi Vechir” (On Holy Night), followed by “Shchedryk” (known in English as “Carol of the Bells”) and “Shchedryi Vechir, Dobryi Vechir.”

The carolers concluded by offering their Christmas greetings.

Canadians assist in delivery of military gear for Ukraine

KYIV – To mark the arrival of Canadian non-lethal aid to the Ukrainian military via transport plane, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress collaborated with Babylon ‘13 to produce a film highlighting the cooperation between the Ukrainian Canadian community and the government of Canada to ensure that these desperately needed military grade winter uniforms, boots and other assistance reached Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines. According to a January 9 news release, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) requested that Canadian volunteers participate in this mission, and they served under the stewardship of Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk. Lenna Koszarny, chair of the UCC Ukraine Advisory Council, led the Canadian volunteers, who are long-term, active members of the Ukrainian business community. The UCC thanked and recognized Roman Sawycky and Bryan Disher for their contribution. The Canadians worked in tandem with Ukrainian volunteers led by Bohdan Kovalev, a member of the Volunteer Council appointed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and overseen by Yuriy Biryukov and David Arakhamia, who are assisting the Ukrainian government in reforming the Ministry of Defense.

Michael Komichak, noted radio host, community leader in Pittsburgh, 95

PITTSBURGH – Michael Komichak, a prominent ethnic radio broadcast personality who had been the host of Pittsburgh’s Ukrainian Radio Program since July 1950, died on December 28, 2014. He was 95. The Ukrainian Radio Program in Pittsburgh, now in its 65th year of continuous service to the Ukrainian American community in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia, is heard each Sunday at 1-2 p.m. on Radio Station WPIT-AM (730), and can be heard on the Internet at www.wpitam.com. Mr. Komichak, a noted Ukrainian American community leader, presented the program in Ukrainian and English, and featured traditional and contemporary Ukrainian music, news, commentaries, and Ukrainian social and community activity announcements. The program’s objectives have been to champion the cause of freedom and independence for Ukraine, to promote Ukrainian culture and consciousness, to preserve, maintain and nurture the Ukrainian identity and heritage of its listeners through music, language, history and traditions, and to reflect the best image of Ukrainian-Americans.