On February 18-19, Ukraine decided to request that the United Nations Security Council authorize a peacekeeping contingent or police mission that would discourage further advances of Russian and proxy forces in Ukraine’s east (Ukrinform, February 18, 19). Debaltseve fell to Russian and proxy forces on February 18. Ukraine’s appeal, however, shattered on several obstacles, including the U.N. Security Council’s freshly adopted February 17 resolution. The resolution enshrines and legitimizes Russia’s gains at Ukraine’s expense in the Minsk agreements (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 13, 19, 20). Devalued as they generally are (politically, functionally and in other respects), U.N. Security Council resolutions can sometimes provide interesting case studies of great-power understandings over issues affecting certain lesser third parties.
KYIV – Fistfights aren’t anything unique for Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, but National Deputy Yegor Sobolyev of the Samopomich party and Vadym Ivchenko of the Batkivshchyna party put on a special show in its halls on February 12. Their bloody exchange of fists – dramatic enough to make them possible candidates for the professional ranks – lifted Mr. Sobolyev to celebrity status as a leader in the fight against corruption, rendering moot his party’s apology for his violent conduct afterwards. It’s such passion and willingness to fight, literally in Mr. Sobolyev’s case, that 1.7 million voters were hoping for when casting their ballots for Samopomich in the October 2014 elections – 11 percent of the total – giving it the third-largest result (and fourth-largest parliamentary faction when including single-mandate districts). “Sobolyev became a hero for me that day. He was fighting for me and all of us who have been fighting for years, pro bono, for the interests of citizens,” said Iryna Fedoriv, a Kyiv Oblast activist against illegal construction and a member of the Kotsiubynske Village Council.
OTTAWA – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) has strongly condemned the flagrant violations of the Minsk agreements by the Russian Federation and Russian-led, -staffed, -funded and -controlled terrorist organizations in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In a statement released on February 21, the UCC said:
“Despite agreement on a ceasefire that was to begin on 15 February, Kremlin-backed terrorists and Russian soldiers continued a brutal offensive against Ukrainian positions near Debaltseve. While withdrawing from Debaltseve, Ukrainian forces were shelled by Russian artillery, resulting in the death of more than 10 Ukrainian soldiers and over 100 wounded. Over 80 Ukrainian soldiers are missing in action. The Russian Federation and its proxies in Ukraine have consistently disregarded and violated all agreements they have pledged to uphold.
WASHINGTON – Congressional Ukrainian Caucus co-chairs Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) marked the first anniversary of Ukraine’s Euro-Maidan demonstrations on February 24 by introducing a resolution calling for increased American economic and governmental involvement on the behalf of Ukraine. The resolution calls for the United States to assist Ukraine with economic, social and governmental reform efforts; urges President Barack Obama to immediately act on approved financial and defensive military aid; and encourages Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to continue anti-corruption efforts. “A year ago, the people of Ukraine rallied behind the ideas of economic and governmental reform during the Euro-Maidan demonstrations; today, the United States must take action to see their goals achieved,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “This bipartisan resolution calls on Congress and the White House to work in the best interest of our friend and ally, Ukraine, and support a safe and sovereign nation through common sense measures: Supporting serious reform efforts, calling on President Obama to follow through with the provision of financial and defensive military aid, and encouraging the continuation of anti-corruption efforts in Kyiv.”
“On the anniversary of Maidan, this resolution underscores our solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their efforts to chart their own history.
Last year, on March 3, 2014, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power countered statements by Russia during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. Ambassador Power stated:
“Listening to the representative of Russia, one might think that Moscow had just become the rapid response arm of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality. …It is a fact that Russian military forces have taken over Ukrainian border posts, … the ferry terminal in Kerch… Russian ships are moving in and around Sevastopol… Russian forces are blocking mobile telephone services in some areas… Russia has surrounded or taken over practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea… Russian jets entered Ukrainian airspace… and that independent journalists continue to report that there is no evidence of violence against Russian or pro-Russian communities.”
“Russian military action is not a human rights protection mission. It is a violation of international law and a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the independent nation of Ukraine, and a breach of Russia’s Helsinki commitments and its U.N. obligations.”
Russia, she added, was not justified in its military intervention in Ukraine, seizing control of public facilities and issuing military ultimatums to elements of the Ukrainian military.
This week, a court in Moscow rejected Nadiya Savchenko’s appeal of her pre-trial detention, ruling that she should remain in custody until May 13, presumably when her trial on trumped-up charges is supposed to begin. That’s despite the fact that the young woman’s health has seriously deteriorated. As these words are being written on our deadline day (Thursday, February 26), the courageous pilot is in the 76th day of her hunger strike, which she began back in mid-December to protest her illegal imprisonment in Russia after she was captured on June 18, 2014, by pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. 1st Lt. Savchenko, 33, has been charged with complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists – though there isn’t a scrap of evidence to support those allegations. In January, Russian authorities cynically added another charge: illegally crossing the border, never mind that on June 20 she was abducted by Russian forces and taken from Ukraine to Russia with a sack on her head.
For the past year, every day we hear of painful numbers – x servicemen and y civilians killed by shelling in eastern Ukraine. One year ago, the death of the Heavenly Brigade on the Maidan in Kyiv moved the world. Today, it seems that death has become a statistic. When deaths are too numerous they become depersonalized. Without names, even supreme sacrifice – and our own responsibility in its regard – becomes blurred.
This week Ukraine celebrates the first anniversary of the Euro-Maidan revolution that toppled kleptocratic President Viktor Yanukovych and when Ukrainians became the first Europeans to die under the European Union (EU) flag. In the same week the second peace agreement signed in Minsk on February 12 collapsed for the same reasons as the first Minsk agreement signed last September: then and now, Russia and its separatist proxies failed to adhere to a single article of the Minsk agreements. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before the EU will return to the question of tougher economic and financial sanctions and U.S. President Barack Obama has to decide whether to continue to fight his own Democratic Party, as well as Republicans and both houses of Congress, over whether to authorize supplying defensive military equipment for Ukraine (https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/02/18/lets-call-the-ukrainian-cease-fire-what-it-is-russia-putin/). But, Canada, in addition to Western Europe, is also opposed to providing Ukraine with military equipment. With Minsk-2 having disintegrated at the strategic railroad crossing of Debaltseve from which Ukrainian forces retreated, will Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, which has been strong on rhetoric but weak on substance, and the Canadian Parliament continue to oppose the sending of military equipment to Ukraine?
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is into its second year, the latest in a centuries-long assault on Ukrainians’ very right to exist. Taras Shevchenko wrote about it nearly 200 years ago, a sad legacy he had learned from his grandfather, who heard it from even older Kozak ancestors. Now with the euphoria of Euro-Maidan fading, we have to yet again accept that, despite progress in the last 25 years, the struggle for Ukraine has been and remains long-term, a reality that defined much of my childhood and has consumed me as an adult, as it has so many others. Looking to the current U.S. political landscape, no one has supported Ukraine longer at a higher level than Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. I was a young staffer with Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar when Rep. Kaptur was elected in 1982 from Toledo, 90 miles west of the Cleveland district my boss represented.
Upon reading the coverage of the Gergiev protests, I was quite impressed with the evident level of organization and coordination that went into reproaching the orchestra leader for his publicly stated Putinist sympathies. So, I’m wondering if any activists in the Ukrainian community are planning demonstrations expressing these same sentiments against other individuals who seem to be enabling Putin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine: Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, Barack Obama. Certainly, Valery Gergiev’s words are enough to cause anger, but Ms. Merkel’s and Mr. Hollande›s actions in Minsk caused real damage as they provided the perfect smokescreen for the separatists to seize Debaltseve. Mr. Obama appears to be using inaction on the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 as his weapon of choice against Ukraine. His passivity towards repeated pleas from various leaders of Ukraine (not to mention his U.S. constituents) mocks the dignity of all those Ukrainians whose efforts and sacrifices created, and carry on, this recent revolution.