Dnipro inspires hope

Dnipro Dnipropetovsk’s Europa League final debut is in the record books, and despite the 3-2 loss to Spain’s Seville, its performance during the match showed that Europe, and not just its soccer, needs to refocus to include Ukraine. Hundreds of Dnipro fans who could not afford the trip were awarded gifts of transportation and tickets by the club in order to get to the match. It was a chance for some of the people affected by Russia’s aggression to escape, albeit briefly, to cheer for their countrymen and lift their spirits. The pro-Ukraine crowd in Warsaw, where the final was played, could be heard chanting and singing President Vladimir Putin’s “favorite” anthem – “Putin Kh—o!” This expression of solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression – during one of the major European soccer events of the year that attracts millions of viewers worldwide – was a diplomatic slap to Russia with soccer as the medium. The newspaper Vesti in Ukraine summarized: “That’s it, the end of a fairy tale for good and brave Dnipro – overcoming major difficulties and obstacles while closing in on their goal.

Smeshko: Putin can’t conquer Ukraine, but he can start a third world war

In an address to the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn on April 25, Igor Smeshko pointed to one of the most dangerous asymmetries of the situation in Ukraine: Vladimir Putin cannot occupy Ukraine and subdue a partisan war, but the Kremlin leader can “provoke a global conflict.”

The former head of the SBU and an advisor to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, says this is the reason that the conflict must be of concern to all of Europe and the West more generally (gordonua.com/news/war/Smeshko-Okkupirovat-Ukrainu-i-vyigrat-partizanskuyu-voynu-s-ney-nevozmozhno-no-vpolne-realno-sprovocirovat-konflikt-globalnogo-masshtaba-77653.html). “The armed conflict in Ukraine is not simply a local contest between Ukraine and Russia but a clash between two civilizations, the Euro-Atlantic and the so-called ‘Russian world,’” Mr. Smeshko said. Were Ukraine to lose, this would be “a threat not only for the post-Soviet space, including the Baltic countries but for all of Europe.”

What is at stake, he argued, is whether Russia will be able to “stop the processes of European integration,” acquire a strong voice in European affairs, and set itself up as a global counterweight to the United States. Asked why Mr. Putin decided to engage in this direct confrontation of the West, Mr. Smeshko said that Moscow was shocked by the two Maidan protests in Ukraine in 2004 and 2014. “Those protests showed,” he explained, “that a developed civil society already exists in Ukraine and that the ideas of democracy are spreading ever closer to Russian borders.”

“The conversion of Ukraine into a flourishing and strong democratic country would be a death sentence for the existing authoritarian regime in Russia and even represent a danger for its disintegration,” the Ukrainian presidential advisor said.

“In the Donbas there is war, but in Crimea, there is terror”

Many believe that the situation in Russian-occupied Crimea is “not so terrible” because there is no war going on there, Abmezhit Suleymanov says. But in many ways, the situation in Crimea is even worse: in the Donbas, “you know who your enemy is”; in Crimea, there are enemies “all around you” and residents live in a state of terror, he explains. Mr. Suleymanov, who is a representative of the Mejlis committee for the defense of the rights of Crimean Tatars, made these comments to Glavred.info in an article on May 26 that also features other reports from people on the occupied peninsula who ask that no one forget what is taking place there (glavred.info/politika/krym-v-okkupacii-kak-zhizn-v-usloviyah-terrora-319569.html). Some high-profile cases of this terror have attracted international attention, but activists in Crimea and in Kyiv say that there are far more lower-level ones that pass unnoticed and that even they are not able to register and thus document for national and international bodies. It appears, they say, that “Russia needs Ukrainian ‘spies,’ ‘snipers,’ and ‘terrorists’” and has a variety of charges officials may use or actions some of them or ordinary pro-Moscow people may employ to repress anyone who is not enthusiastically on the side of the new order in Crimea following the Anschluss.

June 6, 2014

Last year on June 6, 2014, on the 70th anniversary of the Allied D-Day invasion (Operation Overlord), President Barack Obama and his European peers met with President Vladimir Putin at Normandy. A day earlier, at the G-7 summit in Brussels – that was scheduled to be a G-8 summit in Sochi prior to Russia being excluded – members called on all international actors to recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government and on Moscow to refrain from further inciting unrest in eastern Ukraine. President-elect Petro Poroshenko met with his Russian counterpart during the Normandy commemorations, prior to his inauguration as Ukraine’s president on June 7, 2014. Ukraine’s Parliament was also preparing for new parliamentary elections that were threatened by Russian escalation of the conflict. These challenges, in addition to forging national unity and enacting political and economic reforms were a full agenda for the new president.

The disastrous EU summit on the European Partnership

The European Union’s Summit on the Eastern Partnership, held May 21-22 in Riga, Latvia, was a disaster for Ukraine. For friends of democracy, the rule of law and Ukraine, it would have been better had this EU summit never taken place and its joint declaration never written. This summit was expected to be a major embarrassment for the EU, delivering nothing in terms of European perspectives, financial support for Ukraine, freer trade for all, or freer travel. But the outcome was even worse than expected. The Riga gathering backtracked from the elevated Vilnius summit in November 2013, which sparked Ukraine’s Euro-Maidan.

It really didn’t happen on January 22

Dear Editor:

No, Orysia Paszczak Tracz, it happened three days later. This is what I thought as I started reading Ms. Tracz’s column “What happened to January 22, 1918?” (February 15). She writes, “Yes, January 22, 1918 – the first Ukrainian Independence Day, the Fourth Universal, the Ukrainian National Republic.”

In truth, the third reading and the vote on the Fourth Universal bill in the Central Rada in Kyiv took place shortly after midnight on January 25, 1918. But Mykhailo Hrushevsky, president of the Rada, was attached to January 22. It was the date set for the Constituent Assembly to write the constitution of independent Ukraine.

FOR THE RECORD: U.S. announces $18 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Ukraine crisis

The following “media note” was released on May 27 by the Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Simon Henshaw announced May 23 in Kyiv that the United States is providing $18 million in additional U.S. humanitarian assistance to help those affected by Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. With this new funding, total U.S. humanitarian assistance since the start of the crisis will reach more than $61 million. The United States remains concerned by the growing humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine, particularly in areas occupied by combined Russian-separatist forces, and the limits on assistance agencies’ response due to the underfunding of humanitarian appeals. More than 5 million people in Ukraine are in need of aid, according to the U.N., including 1.2 million internally displaced persons.

Images from the 39th annual Ukrainian Festival in New York

NEW YORK –  “One Ukraine” was the theme of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church’s 39th annual Ukrainian Festival, held on May 15-17.  With more vendors than ever lining Seventh Street between Second and Third avenues, the thousands of festival visitors had ample opportunities for shopping, eating and supporting humanitarian organizations such as Razom for Ukraine and the Wounded Warrior Project. With five stage programs over the course of three days, there was no shortage of entertainment, with numerous singers, dancers and musicians. Highlights of the stage shows included performances by Olya Fryz, Lviv’s Vatra Ensemble, Yavir School of Ukrainian Dance, and the Syzokryli and Iskra Ukrainian dance ensembles.

Ukraine’s top traffic cop resigns amid evidence of lavish lifestyle

KYIV – The acting head of Ukraine’s traffic police has stepped down after reports from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service and other media that showed he and his family appeared to be living far beyond the means of a public servant, with several luxury cars and a large villa. On his Facebook page, Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov said he met with Oleksandr Yershov on May 19 and accepted his resignation. Mr. Avakov also said a probe would be launched in the wake of the reports pointing to an extravagant lifestyle. Mr. Yershov was appointed to the post on an interim basis just over a month ago. President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to crack down on graft in Ukraine, where public anger over corruption helped spark the Maidan demonstrations that chased former President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014.

Baltimore parish celebrates youngsters’ first communion

BALTIMORE – The parishioners and guests of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Baltimore joined the Rev. Vasyl Sivinskyj and the beautiful 10 first confession and communion recipients in an uplifting liturgy on Sunday, May 17. Afterwards all the families gathered for a luncheon attended by over 150 invited guests in the church hall. The joyous event saw the largest group of first confession/communion children in more than 20 years. After the liturgy, the Rev. Sivinskyj gave each child a prayerbook, rosary and icon as remembrance of the holy event.