Kolomoisky resigns after challenging the president

KYIV – A struggle involving armed fighters erupted in Kyiv on March 19 for control of Ukraine’s biggest oil producer, Ukrnafta, between its majority stakeholder, the Ukrainian government, and Igor Kolomoisky, the billionaire who controls the largest minority stake through the Privat Group empire in which he’s a partner. The standoff lasted until March 24, when Mr. Kolomoisky submitted his resignation as Dnipropetrovsk State Oblast Administration chair (a position commonly referred to as “governor”) during a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has led the government’s drive to control Ukrnafta. Both sides said the conflict had been settled, though neither side has yet to reveal just how. It threatened to open a frontline for the Kyiv government with Mr. Kolomoisky’s brigades based in his native Dnipropetrovsk, as well as undermine the partnership between the nation’s two most powerful figures that helped thwart the military advance of Russian-backed forces. “This battle can be a risk for the government in the sense that it can lead to a second front within the country and become a gift for Putin,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, the head of the Penta Center for Applied Political Research in Kyiv.

House resolution supports lethal weapons systems to aid Ukraine’s defense

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives on March 23 overwhelmingly passed House Resolution 162 “calling on the president to provide Ukraine with military assistance to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The vote was 348 for and 48 against. The measure, which was approved with strong bipartisan support, resolves that “the House of Representatives strongly urges the president to fully and immediately exercise the authorities provided by Congress to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapon systems to enhance the ability of the people of Ukraine to defend their sovereign territory from the unprovoked and continuing aggression of the Russian Federation.” It refers to the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 18. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and had 12 co-sponsors: Edward Royce (R-Calif.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Devin Nunes (R- Calif.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Kay Granger (R-Texas) and William Keating (D-Mass.). House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) issued the following statement after the House passed H. Res. 162:

“The House reflected the will of the people again today in passing a bipartisan call-to-action to help the Ukrainian people.

Atlantic Council report focuses on human rights abuses in Crimea

On March 6, the Atlantic Council in Washington hosted a presentation and discussion on “Human Rights Abuses in Russian-Occupied Crimea” that featured a report by Andrii Klymenko, chief editor of the Black Sea News and chairman of the supervisory board for Maidan Foreign Affairs. The discussants included Mark Lagon, president of Freedom House, and David Kramer, senior director for human rights and human freedom at the McCain Institute; the moderator was former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst. The transcript of the presentation and discussion were made available on March 12 on the Atlantic Council website, www.atlanticcouncil.org. This first portion of The Ukrainian Weekly’s will feature the report and commentary by the organizers. The next installment will feature the discussion among the audience and the presenters.

One year later, Crimea’s Tatars even further in the shadows

It’s not as though Abdureshit Dzhepparov hasn’t been kept busy. Sitting in his flat in the Crimean city of Bilohirsk, about 40 kilometers northeast of the capital, Symferopol, the Tatar activist calmly ticks off the meetings he’s held with de facto authorities since his son and nephew were abducted last autumn: two talks in October. One in December. Another one in February. At each meeting, Mr. Dzhepparov acknowledges, some small progress is made – a form signed here, an agreement struck there.

Ukraine in a leaderless Europe: A net assessment

Part 1

March 13

Russia’s war against Ukraine has exposed the deepening cracks in Europe’s understanding of itself as the West’s core, and in its positioning vis-à-vis an openly adverse Russia. Fragmentation processes were ongoing in Europe prior to this war, both above and (with longer-term effects) below the surface of European external policies. Russia’s successfully conducted war in Ukraine – as reflected in the Minsk 2 “armistice” – exploits Europe’s growing incoherence. Basically, Moscow and Berlin worked out Minsk 2, at heavy costs to Ukraine, while European institutions looked paralyzed. It is to a dysfunctional Europe that the Barack Obama administration has downloaded its own share of responsibility for dealing with Russia’s war in Ukraine.

OSCE condemns repressive actions against journalists in Crimea

VIENNA – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović condemned the intimidation of independent journalists in Crimea following the detention on March 13 of Natalya Kokorina, a journalist and editor with the news portal Crimean Center for Investigative Journalism. “This detention is a reminder of the ongoing practice of the de facto authorities in Crimea to intimidate and persecute independent media representatives for their work,” Ms. Mijatović said. According to reports, Ms. Kokorina was detained by Federal Security Service agents who were searching her parents’ apartment in Symferopol. Ms. Kokorina was not allowed legal help during the search and detention, nor given reasons for these restrictive measures. “I call on the de facto authorities in Crimea to immediately release Kokorina,” Ms. Mijatović said.

Poroshenko welcomes shipment of U.S. Humvees

KYIV – At Boryspil International Airport on March 25, President Petro Poroshenko welcomed a U.S. Air Force cargo plane that delivered the first shipment of promised American Humvees. The 10 Humvees were delivered to Ukraine pursuant to a U.S. decision on sending defensive equipment to Ukraine. The heavily armored vehicles will be equipped with Ukrainian weapons. Eight of them will be conveyed to units of highly mobile airborne troops and two will be sent to the special units of the Security Service of Ukraine. The U.S. is planning to supply 230 Humvees, 30 of them heavily armored.

Washingtonians honor the “prophet of freedom”

WASHINGTON – As Ukrainians, and others, began arriving at the Taras Shevchenko monument here on the sunny afternoon of Saturday, March 21, they were taken aback at the first sight of the poet laureate’s statue. It was draped with a gigantic faux chain, from around his neck, surrounding his body and down to his feet. The gathering grew to a crowd of almost 200 when the memorial program – a “cultural exploration into an iconic Ukrainian figure,” its “prophet of freedom” – began with everyone joining with the local SPIV-Zhyttya choir in singing the American and Ukrainian national anthems.

And then, two young girls, Mariia Marchuk and Valeriia Vlasov, began the poetry recitation part of the afternoon celebration with Shevchenko’s “Study Well, My Brothers”  (Учітеся, брати мої). More recitations of Shevchenko’s poetry – in Ukrainian, English, as well as in Georgian, Russian, Belarusian, French and Spanish – continued throughout the program. And so did the singing of some well-known songs set to his words, as well as two recent compositions to Shevchenko’s poems by Victor Morozov: “I Beat a Path through the Field” (Утоптала стежичку) and “The Rapids Roar” (Б’ють пороги), which were performed by SPIV-Zhyttya.

Zhadan reads his poetry at Philly gallery

PHILADELPHIA – On Sunday, March 15, Ukrainian poet and novelist Serhiy Zhadan visited Philadelphia to give a poetry reading along with the 2014-2015 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia at an art/literary gallery in downtown Philadelphia. The majority of the audience at the Vox Populi Gallery consisted of Ukrainian Americans from the area. Above, Mr. Zhadan (standing third from left) is seen among local Ukrainian Americans following his and Mr. Sherlock’s poetry reading titled “Post-Proletarian Punk.” Mr. Sherlock (kneeling in the foreground at left) was a 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts for Literature. Mr. Zhadan also had a poetry reading in New York at The Ukrainian Museum on March 13. – Illya Labunka

Heavenly Brigade remembered at service in New Haven church

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A “panakhyda” (memorial service) was said for the Heavenly Brigade on Sunday, March 1, here at St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church, after the 10:30 a.m. divine liturgy. February 18-21 marked the tragic anniversary of the most violent Maidan days during which more than 100 peaceful demonstrators – the Heavenly Brigade – were gunned down by snipers in central Kyiv. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats representing Connecticut, attended the memorial service and spoke before the program held in the church hall.