KYIV – Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian military pilot who has become the nation’s globally recognized symbol of resistance to Russian aggression, was found guilty on March 22 by a Russian court of participating in the murder of two Russian journalists and illegally crossing the Russian border. She was sentenced to 22 years imprisonment in a penal colony – a year short of the maximum sentence. Striking an especially cynical tone, the court fined Ms. Savchenko 30,000 rubles ($443) for violating the border. The United States and the European Union condemned the verdict and called for Ms. Savchenko’s immediate release, reiterating the widely accepted view that the criminal charges were fabricated by the Russian government as part of its information war against Ukraine. The conviction and sentencing “show a blatant disregard for the principles of justice and contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements,” said U.S. State Department Spokesman John Kirby.
PARSIPPANY, N.J. – The verdict and sentence announced on March 22 by a Russian court in the fabricated case against Nadiya Savchenko elicited strong reaction from European and U.S. officials, government spokesmen and Ukrainian diaspora organizations. The unjust conviction of the Ukrainian military pilot and member of the Verkhovna Rada was also the topic of a March 22 telephone conversation between U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko. According to a readout of the call issued by the White House: “Vice-President Biden spoke today with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The vice-president condemned the unjust conviction and sentencing of Ukrainian pilot and member of Parliament Nadiya Savchenko and underlined Russia’s obligation under the Minsk agreements to release her. The vice-president emphasized the importance of Ukraine quickly re-establishing a stable government and parliamentary coalition committed to implementing needed reforms. The leaders agreed on the importance of fully implementing all aspects of the Minsk agreements in order to end the suffering of the people living in separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine and restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
KYIV – Ukraine’s Minister of Finance Natalie Jaresko on March 22 released a statement declaring her readiness to assemble a team of technocrats for a government that “is able to work in the interest of the whole country, all its citizens, not some political or business groups.”
The statement came in the wake of reports that Ms. Jaresko was among the top candidates for prime minister to replace the embattled Arseniy Yatsenyuk. On March 23, RFE/RL reported that President Petro Poroshenko said he was ready “to support any candidate for prime minister submitted by the [parliamentary] coalition” and that he had urged the Verkhovna Rada to approve a new Cabinet of Ministers within a week. The next day Verkhovna Rada Chair Volodymyr Groysman said he was ready to become prime minister if asked. Following is the text of Ms. Jaresko’s statement, translated from the original Ukrainian by the Ukraine Crisis Media Center. * * *
There comes a time when politics needs to be great, so that the whole country comes together to address fundamental issues for its future.
The conflict Russia is waging against Ukraine has, from the very beginning, had many different dimensions. Currently, it is increasingly assuming the narrative and form of an existential conflict between two antagonistic civilizations with competing ideologies, cultures and religions. The February 12 meeting in Havana, between the Roman pontiff, Pope Francis, and Russian Patriarch Kirill, is a case in point. The mutually exclusive Ukrainian versus Russian interpretations of that meeting certainly illustrate the way religious rhetoric is being used by the Kremlin against the Ukrainian nation and state – and the West as a whole. Commentary in Russia and Ukraine on the February meeting between the two religious leaders continued right through until March.
WARSAW – Michael Georg Link, director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), expressed concerns on March 22 over the conviction by a Russian court of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian military pilot, for complicity in the killing of two Russian journalists in June 2014. “Amidst serious disputes over the facts in Savchenko’s trial and the need to respect fair-trial rights in her high-profile case, I echo the OSCE Chairmanship’s call for her immediate release,” the ODIHR director said. “Savchenko’s release would send a strong humanitarian message given her health problems and would build confidence in the peace process aimed at resolving the two-year-old crisis in and around Ukraine.” Mr. Link added, “OSCE participating states have committed themselves to uphold internationally recognized standards for the administration of justice. It is regrettable that ODIHR has not had the opportunity to visit her in detention or to officially monitor her trial – despite our request. This verdict raises real concerns as to whether these standards have been met.” (OSCE)
Ukraine considers sanctions
KYIV – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he has called on the National Security and Defense Council to consider sanctions against Russian officials involved in the prosecution of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko.
Two years since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s initiation of the war in the Donbas, the peace process in Ukraine is at a standstill. Moreover, there are fears that after a pullout from Syria, Moscow may mount a new offensive in Ukraine (Segodnya.ua, March 18). On the other hand, if Moscow decides to back away from all-out confrontation with the West, a détente in eastern Ukraine could plausibly follow a U-turn on Syria. If so, the replacement by Moscow of its puppets in Donetsk and Luhansk with somebody more acceptable to the West and Kyiv would be logical. It has been speculated that steel tycoon Rinat Akhmetov and the leader of the Opposition Bloc in Ukraine’s Parliament, Yurii Boiko, might replace Moscow appointees Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky in Donetsk and Luhansk, respectively.
BERLIN – On the second anniversary of the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimean peninsula (March 18, 2014), which under international law is part of Ukraine, Special Representative of the German Government for the OSCE Chairmanship Gernot Erler said: “Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula two years ago today was contrary to international law and infringed fundamental OSCE principles, in particular the inviolability of international borders and respect for the sovereignty of all states.”
The representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stressed that the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine jeopardize security and stability in the OSCE area. “Our demands that Ukraine’s full sovereignty and territorial integrity be restored thus remain unchanged. Human rights and fundamental freedoms, the protection of national minorities and the independence of the organizations representing their interests must continue to be guaranteed throughout the entire territory of Ukraine,” he said. Mr. Erler emphasized that implementation of the Minsk agreements is at present still the most urgent step towards achieving a lasting solution to the conflict in and around Ukraine. “Today I call on Russia in particular to fulfill its corresponding obligations and to respect international law,” said Mr. Erler.
“…It is unacceptable that military force, deception and disinformation is used to change borders in Europe in the 21st century. …
“Ukraine, as any other sovereign nation, has the right to make her own foreign and security policy choices, and to retain the integrity of her own territory. We cannot accept that another country interferes with that right. …
“We cannot remain passive when Russia decides to undermine the security order, which has been established over the last 25 years, by seizing the territory of a neighboring state. Russia clearly seeks to establish another security order where great powers divide Europe in spheres of interest.
WASHINGTON – On March 18, RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau administrator was approached at her home by two unknown men identifying themselves as journalists with Russia’s NTV channel and seeking personal information. The men, one of whom had a video camera and sought to film the premises, questioned her repeatedly about her income and properties they said she owned in and around Moscow. One of the men said he had received such information from former employees of the Russian Service. The administrator refused to answer the questions. Nenad Pejic, RFE/RL editor in chief, called the incident “a disgusting example of intimidation,” and said that “authorities in Russia appear to be preparing a case against us because of our journalism.”
NTV is a Kremlin-controlled channel known for conducting defamation campaigns against independent journalists, opposition journalists and civil-society activists in Russia.
KERHONKSON, N.Y. – As part of the Soyuzivka Heritage Center’s revival, renovations continue this spring. Along with the continuation of Phase II of the paving projects at the center, the road toward the Lviv and Kyiv buildings will be completed. Although invisible to our guests, there is a major renovation of the reservoir, which holds our pure mountain water. An essential component of Soyuzivka’s operation, the reservoir will get a new rubberized coating, the cost of which is $90,000. The most visible and welcome to guests will be the renovation of the Main House (as seen in the photos here).