KYIV – Exhausted by war, economic depression and ongoing government corruption, Ukrainians turned out less-than-expected to elect their local councils and heads on October 25. Tallies conducted locally were still being registered by the Central Election Commission on October 29 but observers were already drawing conclusions. As expected, the Solidarity Petro Poroshenko Bloc performed well, finishing in the top two parties on most councils in western and central Ukraine. The youth-oriented Self-Reliance (Samopomich) party performed surprisingly well, earning seats in the nation’s six largest city councils. On the other hand, Euro-Maidan persecutors were re-elected mayors of numerous cities in southeastern Ukraine, including Kharkiv and Odesa.
WASHINGTON – While on an official visit to Washington, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pavlo Klimkin on October 16 visited the Holodomor Memorial, which was built on federal land in the District of Columbia thanks to the joint efforts of the government of Ukraine and the Ukrainian American community. The dedication ceremony of the Holodomor Memorial, designed by Larysa Kurylas, is scheduled for November 7.
NEW YORK – The Ukrainian National Women’s League of America celebrated its 90th anniversary with a full house of attendees at a festive banquet held on Saturday, October 17, at the Ukrainian National Home in New York City. This event was planned on the weekend of the annual UNWLA National Board meeting, allowing board members from around the country to participate. Upon entering, UNWLA members were welcomed with a specially designed commemorative 90th anniversary pin, while all guests were offered a blue and yellow “Slava Ukraini” signature toast. The banquet began with the official UNWLA prayer (offered by the Rev. George Bazylevsky) followed by the UNWLA hymn. The banquet’s MCs, Roksolana Misilo and Mariya Andriyovych, welcomed all attending.
The clumsy attempt, in mid-September, of an Italian man to allegedly join pro-Russia separatist forces in Ukraine’s eastern region of Donbas, reignited the issue of Western “volunteers” fighting in this war-torn country. The would-be Italian combatant for the self-styled separatist “people republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk was arrested by the Ukrainian Border Guard Service on September 19, and released a few days later (Ukraine Today, September 20; Il Mattino, September 25). Italian fighters in Ukraine fill the ranks of both warring parties: military units loyal to the government in Kyiv and Moscow’s proxy armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk. In the absence of official numbers, journalistic investigations speak of perhaps half a dozen Italian nationals fighting on either side of the conflict (Corriere.it, February 12; Corriere della Sera-Sette, February 20). These are relatively low figures that, nonetheless, outnumber those of Italian fighters engaged in the Syrian war, which is perceived as a more dangerous threat to Italy than the Ukrainian conflict.
WASHINGTON – On October 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H. Res. 348, “Supporting the right of the people of Ukraine to freely elect their government and determine their future.” The resolution reads in part: “Whereas the Russian Federation has continued to engage in relentless political, economic, and military aggression to subvert the independence and violate the territorial integrity of Ukraine; …Resolved, that the House of Representatives: (1) strongly supports the right of the people of Ukraine to freely elect their government and determine their future;(2) urges the administration to expedite assistance to Ukraine to facilitate the political, economic and social reforms necessary for free and fair elections that meet international standards; and (3) condemns attempts on the part of any outside forces, including the government of Russia, its agents or supporters, to interfere in Ukraine’s elections, including through interference, intimidation, violence, or coercion.” Rep. Ed Royce, (R-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, stated, “Almost two years after the conflict in Ukraine began Russian aggression remains a daily reality. …Unfortunately, elections can’t be held in the areas controlled by Russian-led separatists because intimidation and manipulation make free and fair elections impossible. But the elections held in the rest of the country will demonstrate that Ukraine is continuing to implement democratic reforms and that the Ukrainian people are determined to bring peace to their country.” (U.S. House of Representatives)
U.S. donates FM radio transmitters
KYIV – On October 23, the United States transferred to Ukraine the first in a series of shipments of broadcast equipment to help improve Ukraine’s technical capacity to broadcast into eastern Ukraine. Deputy Minister for Information Policy Tetyana Popova received three FM radio transmitters on behalf of the Ukrainian government.
Coffee houses buzz with the din of outsiders. The streets are filled with the hustle and bustle of locals going about their daily business. Living statues dotting the main square add a human element to the city’s medieval past. Lviv exudes an air of a place that is going in the right direction. The sight of soldiers drinking in bars is one of the few signs of the war simmering on the opposite end of the country, some 1,200 kilometers away.
WASHINGTON – At a Congressional hearing on October 21, the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, spotlighted the many recent violations of the rule of law committed by the Russian government. “Forty years after the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, we face a set of challenges with Russia, a founding member of the organization, that mirror the concerns that gave rise to the Helsinki Final Act,” said Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who called the hearing. “At stake is the hard-won trust between members, now eroded to the point that armed conflict rages in the OSCE region. The question is open whether the principles continue to bind the Russian government with other states in a common understanding of what the rule of law entails,” he said. “Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent intervention in the Donbas region not only clearly violate this commitment, but also every guiding principle of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
“…what we’re seeing is an old alternative ideology re-emerging – an ideology that targets not only the tools of democracy but also its very norms. It suggests democratic values lead to violence and disorder, and people are better off and societies are more stable with the strong-arm of centralized power and the safety blanket of control. “The people who profess this idea would have us believe that encouraging political competition, supporting changes in leadership, allowing people to write and say anything they want destabilizes fragile societies. …
“They would have us believe that the separatism in eastern Ukraine was a real phenomenon, rather than an invention – a reverse Maidan engineered by President [Vladimir] Putin to justify the brazen occupation and violent rule of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine and undermine the right of Ukraine’s citizens – and no one else – to determine their country’s future. “We don’t hear these arguments just from bullies standing on the dais of the U.N. General Assembly, but from proxy regimes and local leaders across the world who sow distrust, fear and hate masked as legitimate skepticism and debate. And this is not just an academic dispute.
WASHINGTON – The Ukrainian Heritage Consortium of North America (UHCNA) held its fourth conference in Washington at the Library of Congress on September 18-20. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Caucus on Ukraine and the conference’s keynote speaker, put the work of museums and cultural institutions into context. If you don’t know your past, it’s hard to craft a future, she underscored. Referring to her family’s roots in Ukraine, she offered accounts of her own startling discoveries of diaries, oral history projects and other valuable documentation. Rep. Kaptur commended the UHCNA participants for their work, emphasizing how important it is for Americans to collect and preserve the record of Ukrainian culture and immigration to America.
OTTAWA – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress on October 20 congratulated Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada for the results of the 2015 Canadian federal election. “On behalf of Canada’s 1.3 million Ukrainian Canadian community, I congratulate Mr. Trudeau on his election as prime minister and all the members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons,” stated UCC National President Paul Grod. “We were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister-designate Trudeau last week. Mr. Trudeau made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that Ukraine will remain a top foreign policy priority for a Liberal government under his leadership. Mr. Trudeau’s strong statements in support of Ukraine and opposition to Russia’s aggression leave no doubt that his government will strongly support Ukraine.