Ukrainian American community continues advocacy of stronger U.S.-Ukraine relations

WASHINGTON – More than two dozen Ukrainian Americans from New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington state and the District of Columbia met on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 15, for the second Ukrainian Day advocacy event to be held this year. Ukrainian Day participants met with House and Senate members or their staff at more than 20 congressional offices to press their case for more robust U.S.-Ukraine relations, including economic and military assistance. They were joined by representatives of groups that comprise the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC). “It’s incredibly important for Ukrainian Americans from across the country to meet personally with members of Congress and their staffs so that they realize how strongly we feel about the need to defend Ukraine’s democratic future,” said Katya Sedova, representing the Ukrainian Association of Washington State. “Normally, Ukrainian Days is held once a year and is a time during which members of the Ukrainian American community meet with our elected representatives to speak on topics related to Ukraine,” noted event organizer Michael Sawkiw, director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the public affairs office of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA).

Russia’s veto of U.N. resolution on MH17 tribunal is condemned

There has been widespread condemnation of Russia’s decision to veto a United Nations draft resolution to create an international tribunal over the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine last year, with a number of countries pledging to explore other ways to ensure justice. The tribunal would have been tasked with investigating and trying those responsible for firing the missile that is believed to have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) over a region where pro-Russian fighters were battling Ukrainian troops, killing all 298 people aboard. The text also would have required all countries to cooperate with the tribunal or face sanctions. But Russia followed through on a vow to use its veto power on the 15-member Security Council session during the July 29 vote. Eleven other Security Council members backed the proposal by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, while Angola, China and Venezuela abstained.

U.S., Ukraine on the veto

“…By vetoing this resolution, Russia has tried to deny justice to the 298 victims on that plane, and deny their families a chance to hold accountable those responsible. Russia has callously disregarded the public outcry in the grieving nations, the appeals of the families affected. “It is tragic that Russia has used the privilege entrusted to it in order to advance international peace and security in order to frustrate international peace and security…”

– U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power speaking on July 29, after Russia’s veto of the resolution regarding MH17. “…our duty before those who died and the families of the victims is to bring to justice those who have committed this barbarian act. …We want the perpetrators revealed and tried by a public international court.

Crimean government indicates it wants greater autonomy from Moscow

The puppet government of Crimea has unexpectedly clashed with its bosses in Moscow. On July 7, Crimea’s governor, Sergey Aksyonov, declared he would not allow the Russian federal government to force its own rules on the peninsula. His comments came after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) at the end of June briefly detained Crimea’s minister for industrial development, Andrei Skrynnik, on suspicions of embezzlement of government funds. Mr. Aksyonov stated that he would not allow the FSB to detain regional officials for what he called “insignificant errors during the making of decisions.”

Mr. Skrynnik himself was present at the government meeting, and Mr. Aksyonov personally endorsed his subordinate. “I want to say that we have examined the details of this situation: it was an absolutely false material that had nothing to do with reality,” Mr. Aksyonov asserted.

OSCE: All sides must guarantee access and safety of monitors

BELGRADE – All sides in eastern Ukraine have a responsibility to ensure the safety of OSCE monitors and guarantee their unfettered access across the region, the chairperson-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Serbia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dačić said on July 28. His comments came after two recent incidents in which teams from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine were caught in fire exchanges. “I am alarmed and deeply concerned by the incidents in Shchastia on July 26 and Shyrokyne on July 27, especially when it appears our unarmed, civilian monitors were targeted,” said Mr. Dačić. He said that an SMM monitor, who suffered a mild concussion and an injury to his right leg in the incident in Shyrokyne, had now been discharged from hospital. “I commend the bravery and diligence that monitors and staff of the SMM show every day in their work in increasingly difficult circumstances.

The Ukraine conflict and its impact on morale in the Russian military

Evidence has emerged in Russia’s Southern Military District (MD) that the conflict in Ukraine is not popular among Russian contract personnel (kontraktniki). Reportedly “dozens” of kontraktniki have absconded from or deserted their units on grounds of their opposition to being sent to fight in Donbas. After more than a year of the Kremlin-spun official line that there are no Russian troops fighting in southeastern Ukraine, paradoxically the most striking evidence to the contrary is from a garrison tribunal in Maykop, in which Russian soldiers are being prosecuted for absconding from their unit or for desertion. These men face penalties of up to five to 10 years in prison (, July 10). The cases involve military personnel accused of absconding or desertion from military unit 22179 of the 33rd Motorized Rifle Brigade in Maykop.

OTTAWA – The Embassy of Ukraine in Canada, in coordination with the Canada Ukraine Chamber of Commerce and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, on July 14 organized a business leaders’ roundtable discussion with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine. The discussion coincided with the prime minister’s visit to Ottawa on July 14 to sign the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement. A roundtable with community leaders was held after the business roundtable. – Ukrainian Canadian Congress

Business and community leaders hold roundtables with Yatsenyuk

OTTAWA – The Embassy of Ukraine in Canada, in coordination with the Canada Ukraine Chamber of Commerce and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, on July 14 organized a business leaders’ roundtable discussion with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine. The discussion coincided with the prime minister’s visit to Ottawa on July 14 to sign the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement. A roundtable with community leaders was held after the business roundtable.

“…It has become a refrain of the Russian Federation to insist that the government of Ukraine must ‘engage in direct dialogue’ with ‘representatives’ of Donetsk and Luhansk. “It is important that everybody around this table here recognizes that there is no such thing right now as ‘representatives’ of Donetsk and Luhansk. There are only representatives of the Russian Federation who are perpetrating a reign of terror in Donetsk and Luhansk. “The reason why special local elections were first foreseen last September, before they were disrupted by Russia and their proxies, was to have legitimate representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk. And the Ukrainian government has made clear on multiple occasions, that at such time as there are free and fair local elections in specific areas of Donetsk and Luhansk, there will be engagement with those who emerge from those local elections.

Andrew Fedynsky receives 2015 Freedom Award

CLEVELAND – On July 16, at the annual Captive Nations Dinner in Cleveland, the American Nationalities Movement bestowed its Freedom Award on Andrew Fedynsky citing his “magnificent lifetime achievements: …talent as a scribe publishing outstanding articles supporting human rights for freedom loving people” and “exceptional sensitivity and efforts supporting his rich Ukrainian heritage as director of the Ukrainian Museum-Archives (UMA) and for support of the goals of the Nationalities Movement.”

George Voinovich, a retired U.S. senator who was also two-term governor of Ohio, presented Mr. Fedynsky with the award. In his remarks, Sen. Voinovich related how, as mayor of Cleveland in the 1980s, he and his staff had worked closely with Mr. Fedynsky when he was senior legislative assistant to Cleveland Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar. He praised Mr. Fedynsky for his creative work bringing millions of federal dollars during a time when the city was undergoing severe economic difficulties. The senator also noted Mr. Fedynsky’s numerous initiatives on behalf of Ukraine and other oppressed peoples when he worked in the U.S. House of Representatives and prior to that as a legislative assistant to Sen. Bob Dole. In his own remarks, Mr. Fedynsky thanked the American Nationalities Movement for the honor noting that it was not his alone to enjoy.

Russian veto of MH17 tribunal leaves few good alternatives

Russia’s veto of a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a criminal court for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) has blocked the best chance the international community has of forcing states to cooperate in finding who was responsible for the downing. The reason is that all U.N. member states are bound by the U.N. Charter to recognize the authority of tribunals created by the Security Council. But any other international court can safely be ignored should a state choose to do so. Eric de Brabandere, a professor of international law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, says that “if the Security Council creates a tribunal, based on its Chapter 7 powers, which is Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, it is basically mandatory for all U.N. member states, which means that usually it also includes an obligation to cooperate with the court or tribunal.”

Without this mandatory aspect, he notes, any other international court risks being ineffectual. That leaves the countries that sponsored the U.N. resolution voted on July 29 in a difficult position.