KYIV – The method that assassins used to kill acclaimed journalist Pavel Sheremet on July 20 was at once unsettling and meant to intimidate journalists in Ukraine, his friends and colleagues said. A car bomb that remotely detonated underneath the driver’s seat in which the 44-year-old Minsk-born journalist and radio host was sitting became the nation’s most high-profile murder of a reporter since Heorhii Gongadze was slain in 2000. “Pavel Sheremet wasn’t simply an ordered hit. He was a sacred sacrifice,” said National Deputy Mustafa Nayyem who knew the deceased and had reported for Ukrayinska Pravda where the award-winning murdered journalist worked. “One can kill many ways – quietly, insidiously without… drawing attention to the process.”
The Subaru XV that Mr. Sheremet was driving – belonging to his partner and Ukrayinska Pravda manager Olena Prytula – exploded at a central Kyiv intersection, Mr. Nayyem said, “with such theatricality, …without a shot being fired… so that no one would doubt that it’s not just a murder, but a political assassination.”
Katya Gorchinskaya, CEO of independent Hromadske.tv and friend of the deceased, said Mr. Sheremet’s murder was part of a bigger “pattern that over the past year or more has unfolded against journalists.” In particular, she was referring to her colleague, Mykhailo Trach, who was attacked by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in October 2015 – an act that has gone unpunished.
KYIV – Thousands of Orthodox believers who participated in a controversial religious procession organized by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) gathered in Kyiv on July 27 to mark the 1,028th anniversary of Kyivan Rus’s acceptance of Christianity. Some Ukrainian officials and activists have said the marches are a Moscow-orchestrated plot to incite unrest and assert that the rights of ethnic Russians, Russian-speakers and members of the Moscow-based church are restricted in Ukraine. Nearly 9,000 people gathered on St. Volodymyr Hill after marching for weeks from across the country to the capital. The event was held under tight security, following threats of violence from groups who see the procession as a provocation by Moscow.
“Journey to Canada” exhibit unveiled at Canadian Museum of Immigration
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), in cooperation with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, the Kule Folklore Center and the UCC Halifax-Dartmouth Branch celebrated the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada in Halifax on July 21. The celebrations featured the launch of the exhibit “Journey to Canada: Ukrainian Immigration Experiences 1891-1900” depicting the journey that the first Ukrainian settlers in Canada made and their pioneer experiences. The exhibit – generously provided by the Kule Folklore Center at the University of Alberta – will be displayed through October 30 at the Canadian Museum of Immigration. The Ukrainian Canadian community also unveiled a plaque as a tribute to the five waves of Ukrainian immigrants who came to Canada over the past 125 years. The plaque notes: “They helped build our great nation and championed Canadian values like multiculturalism.”
The celebration at Pier 21 was attended by some 100 guests.
President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials frequently refer to Ukraine’s weak social cohesion, thereby justifying the notion that Russia is intervening in this allegedly ungovernable weak state to protect its clientele groups there. During this year’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum (June 16-18), Mr. Putin indirectly accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of acting to “scare the Russian-speaking population of southeastern Ukraine and Crimea” and he posited that Moscow “simply had to take measures to protect certain social groups” in Ukraine (Kremlin.ru, June 17). Likewise, a document produced by the Moscow-based Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, which lays out a strategy for Russia’s foreign policy until the end of this decade, also mentions the “Ukrainian elites’ incapacity that led to the country’s economic and social degradation.” The report predicts Ukraine’s likely disintegration. Thus, the document’s authors recommend that the Kremlin temporarily halt its activism vis-à-vis Ukraine in order to instead focus on Russia’s domestic human capital drain (Svop.ru, May 23).
The ethnic-Ukrainian share of Ukraine’s population is now greater than the ethnic-Russian share of the Russian Federation’s population – and significantly larger if one does not include Russian-occupied Crimea and the Donbas in the Ukrainian estimation. Despite that, Moscow continues to try to play the ethnic card in Ukraine, not only with ethnic Russians in the east but with smaller ethnic communities elsewhere. Russia’s earlier failed efforts to mobilize Ukraine’s 150,000 ethnic Hungarians and 150,000 Romanians attracted some attention in the past largely because of their proximity to Hungary and Romania, respectively. But now Moscow is seeking to put two other and smaller groups – the 32,000 Gagauz (a Turkic-speaking people who mainly belong to the Christian Orthodox Church) and the 140,000 Bulgarians – in play in Odesa Oblast in a transparent attempt to destabilize that southern Ukrainian region and Ukraine more generally (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 9, 13, 2015). This latest Russian effort began immediately after June 28, when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proposed giving the Crimean Tatars the right to self-determination within Ukraine.
Ukraine laments move Poland’s lower house of Parliament, the Sejm, has voted to declare World War II-era killings committed by Ukrainian nationalists against Polish civilians “genocide” in a move that could provoke tensions between the two neighbors. Kyiv, which rejects the genocide label for the crimes, reacted cautiously, with President Petro Poroshenko expressing “regret” over Warsaw’s move. Mr. Poroshenko cautioned that the resolution could be used against his country. Ukraine has been embroiled in a conflict with Russia-backed separatists that has claimed more than 9,400 lives since April 2014. Mr. Poroshenko also called for reconciliation and forgiveness between the two nations.
KYIV – Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers on July 27 appointed Deputy Minister of Health Ulana Suprun as the acting health minister. On July 12, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had met with the physician, volunteer and director of humanitarian initiatives at the Ukrainian World Congress, Dr. Suprun, and asked her to become deputy minister of health of Ukraine. On July 22, the Cabinet of Ministers appointed Dr. Suprun as deputy health minister. Dr. Suprun is an American of Ukrainian descent. Since the fall of 2013, she has lived in Ukraine.
KYIV – Pavel Sheremet, an award-winning journalist whose reporting challenged the authorities in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine over the past two decades, was killed on July 20 when the car he was driving was destroyed by a bomb in downtown Kyiv. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko called Mr. Sheremet’s death a “murder,” saying the blast was caused by an “explosive device” and that all evidence points to an assassination. Colleagues said they believed it was linked to his work. Belarusian-born Mr. Sheremet, 44, a journalist at news website Ukrayinska Pravda, was driving to the offices of Radio Vesti to do a regular morning show when the bomb went off at about 7:45 a.m., officials said. The Internal Affairs Ministry said the explosives were planted underneath the car and the blast was set off by “possibly a remote-controlled or delayed-action” detonator.
TORONTO – Orest Subtelny, a noted historian and political scientist, a university professor, scholar and author, passed away peacefully on July 24, after succumbing to cancer and dementia. He was 75. Born in Krakow, occupied Poland, on May 17, 1941, he came to the United States with his parents as a refugee in 1949. In his new hometown of Philadelphia he attended the renowned Central High School and was active in Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, where he made many lifelong friendships, especially in his fraternity, Burlaky. After graduating from Temple University with a B.A. in 1965 and from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with an M.A. in 1967, he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in 1973 in history and Middle Eastern studies.
Last week in this space we focused attention on the platform of the Republican Party that was adopted at its National Convention in Cleveland. This week, we take a look at the Democratic Party’s platform. First, however, a short preface. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America informed those on its e-mail list that it had been in touch over the past several months with the Democratic and Republican national committees, as well as advisors to several presidential candidates from both parties, and stated that the UCCA “commends the inclusion of Ukraine in both party platforms for the first time in over a decade.” The UCCA added in its July 21 release: “Demonstrating the level of bipartisan support for Ukraine in this country, both party platforms now include specific commitments to seeing Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity restored.” (NB: The UCCA release was written before the Democratic Party’s platform was officially adopted by its convention.)
We’ve now taken a look at the final version of the Democratic platform and can say, yes, it does mention Ukraine and Russia’s violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty, but not in words as strong or specific as those in the GOP platform (see last week’s editorial). In a paragraph about Russia contained in the section “Confront Global Threats” the Democratic platform simply notes: “Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine American interests.”
Another reference to Ukraine appears in the entry about Europe under the section titled “A Leader in the World,” where it is stated: “…We will seek to strengthen our strategic partnership with Turkey while pushing for reforms, end the division of Cyprus, and continue to support a close relationship with states that seek to strengthen their ties to NATO and Europe, such as Georgia and Ukraine.”
It should be noted that the platform also expresses the Democratic Party’s position on NATO and its Article 5 commitments, especially in reaction to the most recent statements made by the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.