WASHINGTON – The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding with a reception on May 20 at the Senate Visitor’s Center at the U.S. Capitol, where U.S. and Ukrainian government representatives joined with a large group of representatives of Ukrainian American organizations and the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox Churches to mark the occasion. As they praised and thanked the UCCA for the positive work it has done since its founding in 1940 for the benefit of its community, Ukraine and the United States, much of the focus of remarks by speakers, including five members of the U.S. Congress, was also on what the United States and other Western countries are and should be doing to help Ukraine during its current crisis with Russia. The first congressman to address the gathering, Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, put it this way: “I appreciate you being here. I appreciate your strong voice for Ukraine, and I appreciate also the opportunity to stand with you in support of a country, that like all countries, deserves territorial integrity, freedom and the ability for self-determination.”
Similar expressions of support were made by the four other U.S. representatives participating in the event: Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), Paul D. Tonko (D-N.Y.), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.). Rep. Kelly also mentioned and delighted many attending the reception by noting that she, too, has Ukrainian roots.
KYIV – The Eastern Partnership summit in Riga on May 21-22 revealed the European Union has lost the boldness it demonstrated in Vilnius in November 2013, when its participants ostracized former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for declining to sign the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. After the military aggression demonstrated by the Russian government since then, the European Union’s leaders demonstrated heightened caution, refraining from any direct condemnations of Russia and mutedly encouraging the six post-Soviet member states on their Euro-integration efforts. As expected, in the summit’s joint declaration, the EU refrained from making clearer Ukraine’s prospects for membership, let alone offering visa-free travel regimes. For the first time, the declaration referred to “trilateral consultations” on the Ukraine-EU Free Trade Area, calling the January 1, 2016, launch date “provisional,” to the disappointment of observers. The declaration “reads like a successful sting operation by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB),” Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, wrote on May 26, describing the summit as a “disaster” for Ukraine.
KYIV – Ukraine’s growing pains were ever more apparent during the annual May holidays. Parliament approved legislation in early April that was aimed at shifting the emphasis to the newly created Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation on May 8, instead of the traditional Victory Day on May 9. Yet, even with the national government sending letters to local councils advising them to organize events accordingly, traditional parades and processions were repeated on May 9 in many cities, towns and villages throughout the country. “One needs to understand the machine that the consciousness of people went through under the Soviet Union. It was always underestimated and continues to be,” said Yevhen Holovakha, the director of the Institute of Sociology at the National Academy of Sciences.
Since the Russian military became a policy tool in the Kremlin’s conflict in Ukraine, Defense Minister Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu has received surprisingly little attention from observers of Russia’s defense policies. Gen. Shoigu offered broad support for the operation to “restore” Crimea to Russia, while emphatically denying the presence of Russian military personnel in southeastern Ukraine. Recent articles in the Russian media celebrating the defense minister’s 60th birthday offer high praise for his abilities and illustrate that Gen. Shoigu has played an underestimated role in overseeing and facilitating these events (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, May 21). His biographical information stresses his credentials as a crisis manager, given his background as the head of the Emergencies Ministry, as well as his survivability as a politician. He is also known to have a particularly close friendship with President Vladimir Putin, including frequent holidays and hunting trips together (Peoples.ru, accessed May 25).
The Moscow Patriarchate is rapidly losing influence in Ukraine and may be dissolving from below. These trends could open the way to the formation of a single autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, independent of Moscow, and undermine the influence of Patriarch Kirill and his Church at home and abroad. More than half of all the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate and a significant share of its bishoprics, including many whose incumbents were selected by Kirill, are in Ukraine. Thus, the likelihood that many if not most of them will soon shift their allegiance to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church not only will represent a significant reduction in the size and wealth of the Moscow Patriarchate but also will reduce Kirill’s influence in the Kremlin and in Orthodox Church discussions worldwide. Were the Moscow Patriarchate to lose all of its parishes and bishoprics in Ukraine – something that is not likely to happen overnight – the Russian Church would cease to be the largest Orthodox denomination in the world.
“…Now, with respect to NATO, obviously this is a challenging and important time for NATO, and we are very lucky to have General Secretary Stoltenberg at the helm during this time. We had a chance to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the increasingly aggressive posture that Russia has taken, and we affirmed that NATO is the cornerstone not just of trans-Atlantic security but, in many ways, is the cornerstone for global security. “In Wales, we were able to not only affirm the intentions of the alliance to uphold its Article 5 obligations, but we also put in place a whole host of measures to reassure frontline states and to put in place what we call the Readiness Action plan. That is currently being implemented, and I was pleased to hear that not only the United States but our other NATO allies have been doing what’s necessary to make sure that we have positioned the resources and assets necessary to protect all NATO members. “We also reaffirmed the importance of implementing the Minsk Agreement and ensuring that Ukraine is able to enjoy the same territorial integrity and sovereignty as any other country. And we’ll continue to support Ukraine through the NATO-Ukraine partnership that pre-dates the crisis that occurred both in Crimea and now in eastern Ukraine. …
– President Barack Obama, speaking in the Oval Office on May 26 after his meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington.
KYIV – American Peace Corps Volunteers are once again working side-by-side with Ukrainians. Seven volunteers returned to Ukraine on May 20 following a program suspension of more than one year due to the conflict in the east. Indeed, many American Peace Corps Volunteers were so committed to their Ukrainian counterparts that they returned unofficially earlier this year to be part of the “new” Ukraine’s emphasis on strengthening English language skills, youth empowerment and civil society development. This group is the first of what is expected to be a steady stream of new volunteers arriving in the coming months. Enthusiastic government and NGO partners lobbied for the resumption of the program at this unique time in Ukraine’s history when American know-how is especially welcomed.
PARSIPPANY, N.J. – Ukraine’s Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk lost 3-2 against Spain’s Seville on May 26 in Warsaw in an action-packed final championship match of the UEFA Europa League. This was Dnipro’s first appearance at a major European soccer final and showed that Ukraine’s third-largest club could compete with the best of the Europa League. This was Seville’s record-setting fourth championship win, formerly known as the UEFA Cup; Seville won the championship the previous year. Nikola Kalinic opened the scoring for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the seventh minute off an assist by Matheus, following a free-kick by Leo Matos. Seville responded in the 28th minute with a goal by Grzegorz Krychowiak, with an assist by Carlos Bacca that was set up following a corner kick by Ever Banega. Bacca netted a second goal for Seville in the 31st minute with an assist by Jose Antonio Reyes.
• Ukraine leads Group 5 of the Under-19 UEFA Championships with seven points after three matches, with two wins, one draw and no losses, with seven goals for and three against. Ukraine won 2-0 against Montenegro on May 19, won 4-2 against Poland on May 16, and tied 1-1 on May 14 with group hosts Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ukraine advances to the final tournament round, where eight teams are split into two groups, with the top two teams headed to the semifinal round. Germany leads Group 2, Russia leads Group 3, the Netherlands leads Group 4, Austria leads Group 6 and France leads Group 7. Group 1 matches are ongoing May 29-June 3.
REGINA, Saskatchewan – A Holodomor monument called “Bitter Memories of Childhood” was unveiled here at the Saskatchewan Provincial Legislature on May 12. The memorial is a bronze statue of a little girl with a sheaf of wheat and is made from the same cast as the one in Kyiv on the grounds of the National Holodomor Museum. It is the work of sculptor Petro Drozdowsky. “This new addition to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building precinct will foster greater awareness of the Holodomor and provide a permanent place in our province for everyone to reflect upon the terrible tragedy,” said Deputy Premier Ken Krawetz, according to a story filed by Global News. “It will honor the memory of those who perished and the legacy of those who survived, including many who found refuge in Saskatchewan.”
Representatives of national leadership of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) participated in the unveiling of a Holodomor monument.