Ukraine celebrates independence despite ongoing turmoil in east

KYIV – The Ukrainian government commemorated the start of its 25th year of independence from Moscow on August 24 by hosting a march of the nation’s top soldiers along Kyiv’s main boulevard, Khreshchatyk, and awarding Anti-Terrorist Operation commanders honorary battle flags. Though it dropped the display of armaments and hardware as was the case in the previous year’s Khreschatyk parade, the Ukrainian government emphasized the military theme, which remains relevant as Russian-backed terrorists continue to engage in daily attacks on Ukrainian military and civilian targets. “It was you who made an attack deep into Ukraine impossible for the enemy, who – besides the Anschluss of Crimea and Sevastopol – tried, attempted and planned to annex at a minimum eight other Ukrainian regions in the framework of the so-called Novorossiya project,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a pre-Independence Day speech on August 22 to soldiers at the Chuhuyiv Airfield in the Kharkiv region. “It was you who freed from the occupants a large part of Ukrainian Donbas and contained the fighters in the southeastern districts of these two regions [Donetsk and Luhansk]. It’s you who, in tightly closing off the fighting lines, are holding the defense against the aggressor with an impenetrable fortress.

Hundreds pay respect to fallen hero of Ukraine during monument unveiling

PARSIPPANY, N.J. – Hundreds, including many members of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organizations paid their respects during the unveiling of a memorial gravestone and plaque for Ukrainian American Markian “Franko” Paslawsky at Askold’s Grave in Kyiv on August 19, exactly one year after Mr. Paslawsky, 55, was killed in action while serving in the Ukrainian Donbas volunteer battalion near the town of Ilovaysk, Ukraine, on August 19, 2014. Askold’s Grave is a place of honor for heroes of Ukraine, where victims of the Battle of Kruty are memorialized as is Oleksandr Klitnytskiy, a recently identified victim of the Euro-Maidan protest who is counted among the Heavenly Brigade. The gravesite was blessed by local clergy, who served a liturgy on the one-year anniversary of Mr. Paslawsky’s death. The monument headstone is in the shape of a cross and features Markian’s picture in Ukrainian fatigues giving his signature peace sign and smile. The headstone is inscribed: “Markian Gregory Paslawsky (‘Franko’), died in Ilovysk in defense of Ukraine; Heroes never die!” Also inscribed are the last lines of Taras Shevchenko’s poem “Testament” (Zapovit): “And in the great new family, The family of the free, With softly spoken, kindly word, Remember also me.”

Surviving family members were in attendance, including Markian’s mother, Orysia, his two sisters, Olena and Irena, and brother, Nestor (general manager of the Soyuzivka Heritage Center).

Russian court sentences Sentsov to 20 years on terrorism charges

A Russian court has sentenced an acclaimed Ukrainian film director to 20 years in a maximum-security prison on multiple terrorism charges. The sentence was handed down after the North Caucasus District Military Court, located in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, on August 25 found Oleh Sentsov guilty of establishing a terrorist group, organizing two terrorist attacks and an attempted terrorist act, as well as attempting to illegally acquire explosives. Mr. Sentsov’s co-defendant, Oleksandr Kolchenko, 26, was found guilty of involvement with a terrorist group and sentenced to 10 years in prison. After pronouncing the verdict and sentence, the judge asked the defendants if the court’s ruling was clear to them. In response, Messrs.

Russian TV deserters divulge details on Kremlin’s Ukraine propaganda

Former employees of Russia’s largest state-media holding have divulged behind-the-scenes details about what they portray as a Kremlin propaganda campaign to deliberately mislead and inflame television audiences with news coverage of the Ukraine conflict. The Russian culture website this week published tell-all accounts by two people about their time working at VGTRK, Russia’s main state broadcasting company, whose networks included the national Rossiya-1 channel. They describe how Kremlin officials dictated to VGTRK management and editors how news events should be covered, including whether incendiary buzzwords to discredit Ukraine should be deployed on air. One source said weather reports were even used for propaganda purposes after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea territory in March 2014 and the ensuing war between Kyiv’s forces and Russian-backed separatists that the United Nations says has killed more than 6,400 people. The August 6 report by did not identify the two sources by name.

Shyrokyne: strategic asset, political symbol on Azov coast

The Contact Group on Ukraine (Minsk Group) has recently been debating a proposal to turn the Ukrainian stronghold Shyrokyne, key to defending the Azov Sea port city of Mariupol, into a “demilitarized zone.” The Contact Group – comprising Russia, Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” (DPR, LPR) – meets at fairly frequent, but irregular, intervals in Minsk. If the proposal is approved, the village of Shyrokyne would become the first-ever demilitarized zone in the ongoing conflict, and potentially a precedent-setting case for more demilitarized zones to appear on Ukrainian territory. The Russian side and the OSCE are advancing this proposal within the Minsk Contact Group. In that forum’s recent meetings held on July 21 and August 3-4, the Ukrainian side expressed serious reservations about this proposal. Developments on the ground since then are adding to Kyiv’s misgivings about this idea (Belta, Interfax, Donetskoye Agentstvo Novostey, July 21, August 4; see Eurasia Daily Monitor, August 13).

“For Nadiya Savchenko, Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and other Ukrainian hostages, more than one year has passed in Russian custody. Russia has chosen to ignore its commitments under the Minsk agreements, which calls for the release of all hostages and illegally detained persons. We call on the Russian Federation to honor its international commitments and release, without delay, all hostages and illegally detained Ukrainian citizens. “Russia’s decision to move the trial of Verkhovna Rada member Nadiya Savchenko from Moscow to Rostov, which has limited access by Moscow-based media outlets and diplomatic missions, did nothing to build confidence in the fairness of these proceedings. …Ms. Savchenko should not be on trial at all.

Canadian PM extends best wishes on anniversary of Ukraine’s independence

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement to mark the 24th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. It was released on August 24 by Jason Kenney, minister for multiculturalism and minister of national defense. I am pleased to extend my best wishes to everyone in Canada and around the world celebrating the 24th anniversary of the republic of Ukraine’s independence. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine’s Parliament declared independence from the Soviet Union. Canada became the first Western country to proudly recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty, and since that time Canadian-Ukrainian relations have only grown stronger, particularly of late as Ukraine has fallen victim to the Putin regime’s aggression and illegal invasion and occupation of Crimea.

U.S. secretary of state offers congratulations to Ukraine’s people

The following press statement “On the Occasion of Ukraine’s National Day” by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was issued in Washington on August 21 by the Department of State. On behalf of President [Barack] Obama and the American people, I offer my warmest congratulations to the Ukrainian people as you mark the anniversary of your independence on August 24. The United States has been a steadfast partner and friend of Ukraine since your Parliament approved the Act of Independence on this date in 1991. For two dozen years, we have supported the efforts of your citizens to build a strong, stable, and democratic country. Despite huge challenges, you have made remarkable strides toward this goal.

Ariana Babczenko crowned Miss Soyuzivka 2016

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – On Saturday, August 15, Soyuzivka celebrated a tradition that has been taking place for 59 years: the Miss Soyuzivka contest. Miss Soyuzivka for 2016 is Ariana Babczenko, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Konstantyn Babczenko of Naperville, Ill. Ms. Babczenko was born in Chicago in 1995. She is currently a junior at New York University majoring in economics. She will be studying in Paris for her semester abroad this fall.

“A court of occupiers”

In a clearly rigged trial, a Russian court in Rostov-on-Don on August 25 handed down a verdict and a sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment in the case of Oleh Sentsov, 39, the Ukrainian filmmaker who was abducted by Russian security officers in Symferopol, the capital of Crimea, back in May of last year and then miraculously resurfaced in Russian custody in Moscow. He was convicted on trumped-up charges of terrorism in a court proceeding reminiscent of Soviet times, complete with repeated rounds of torture inflicted on the defendant and witnesses forced to give testimony under duress. Tried along with him was Oleksandr Kolchenko, 26, who was sentenced to 10 years. The two men were accused of conspiracy to commit terrorism in Crimea. Condemnation of the verdict came swiftly from U.S. and European leaders.