KYIV – Dmytro Zhytniy can’t lift anything heavy, and is unable to run or jump. On January 23, 2014, when authorities started kidnapping members of the so-called Auto-Maidan – the roving protest on wheels – riot police ambushed and abducted Mr. Zhytniy on a Kyiv side street called Kriposny Provulok while the trained heavyweight boxer was rushing to the protesters’ aid. He was called to action near the city’s central Trade Union building, where he provided security as a Maidan self-defense unit member during his two days off from work at a local do-it-yourself store. Police put Mr. Zhytniy, 47, and several others into a paddy wagon. They beat their captives en route to a nearby forest, where they were forced to kneel for about one and a half hours in sub-zero temperatures.
WASHINGTON – Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of the independent Ukrainian state established 25 years ago after the break-up of the Soviet Union, came to the U.S. capital last weekend to discuss that historic event, how it has progressed since then and what can be expected in the future. “I can give you a lot of examples of mistakes that were made, but Ukraine lives on,” he told a large gathering on November 18 at the Atlantic Council that came to hear him, and two other post-Soviet leaders – the first president of Belarus, Stanislau Shushkevich, and the first deputy prime minister of Russia, Gennady Burbulis – discuss the “Soviet dissolution, the birth of nations and the successes and challenges 25 years later.”
Despite the many challenges it has been receiving from Russia, Mr. Kravchuk stressed that “Ukraine is growing and doing so in a democratic way, in a European way, and now Ukraine cannot be pushed off this path.”
Not unexpectedly, the issue that came up most often during the discussion was the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. “The question of Crimea is very painful for Ukraine. And the idea that Crimea has always been Russia is an illusion,” Mr. Kravchuk said, pointing out that until 1789 Crimea was a part of the Ottoman Empire. “So the question of who Crimea has historically belonged to is not so easily answered.”
He pointed out that today’s world is based on a few “great principles: sovereignty, territorial integrity and untouchable borders.” Those principles – of which the United States is considered to be a major guardian – must be adhered to if the world is to remain that way, he added.
OTTAWA – The doors to further trade deals may be closed once President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, but Ukraine could have an exporting path to the United States via the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), according to a Ukrainian Canadian member of Parliament. Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who represents the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Center for the governing Liberals in the House of Commons, said in an interview that Ukrainian businesses operating in Canada under CUFTA would be able to take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that includes Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. “A company located in a place like southern Ontario would have access to the U.S. market,” said Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, who was in Kyiv in July when International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland – his Liberal Ukrainian Canadian colleague – signed CUFTA with Ukrainian Economic Development and Trade Minister Stepan Kubiv. But such an entrée won’t be that straightforward, according to the president of the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce (CUCC). “If a Ukrainian company makes a product in Ukraine and brings it to Canada, it won’t be able to send it on to the U.S. because it’s not a Canadian product,” explained Zenon Potoczny.
At an October 31 meeting of the Interethnic Relations Council, President Vladimir Putin approved the idea to adopt the “Law on the Russian Nation” (rossiyskaya natsiya), which would legally define the term (Kremlin.ru, October 31). This proposal, and its potential legalistic consequences for the country’s non-ethnic-Russians, has sparked widespread controversy and discussion within society and throughout the various regions of the Russian Federation. In most world languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, etc.) the word “Russian” refers both to Russians as an ethnic group and to Russia as a state. However, in the Russian language, there is a clear distinction between the words “russkiye,” indicating the ethno-cultural community, and “rossiyskiy,” which refers to the country of Russia. The proposed Law on the Russian Nation consciously uses the second form of the word in Russian.
Less than two weeks before Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the U.S. presidential election, Russian President Vladimir Putin codified a laundry list of complaints against Washington when he signed a law halting Moscow’s participation in a bilateral treaty to reduce the countries’ stockpiles of weapons-grade plutonium. Mr. Putin’s demands in the law, including scrapping sanctions against Russia and reducing the U.S. military presence in Eastern Europe, seemed exceedingly quixotic – under a Democratic administration, at least. But in a change of tack from the approach adopted by outgoing President Barack Obama, Mr. Trump said during his campaign that he wanted to improve ties with Moscow and cooperate more on issues like counterterrorism. Now that the Republican candidate has defeated his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, Russian officials are already voicing optimism that the president-elect is someone they can do business with. Mr. Trump, who faced scathing criticism during the campaign over his positive assessments of Mr. Putin, portrays himself as a pre-eminent deal-maker, and he has said he plans to seek a deal with Moscow that’s “great for America, but also good for Russia.” Precisely what he would be willing to trade with Mr. Putin remains unclear, but he will inherit several cards from President Obama.
KYIV – With Donald Trump as president, the United States will focus on its internal problems and this should allow Ukraine to start addressing its challenges with its own resources, claims one Ukrainian political scientist. Mr. Trump’s victory in the presidential elections is a chance for Ukraine to get rid of illusions and begin to solve its own problems, according to Vadym Karasyov, director of the Institute of Global Strategy. Otherwise, Ukraine will not survive in the new geopolitical reality. Mr. Trump’s victory is the end of the America-centered world established after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The U.S. will focus on solving its internal problems and will address the problems of other countries to a lesser extent.
“…Most of [Donald] Trump’s statements during the campaign suggested that he can conduct business with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has little interest in Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, and is ambivalent about NATO’s role in today’s world. But we do not know if he would develop policies based on these statements. In the president-elect’s entourage, only Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is reputed to have ‘dovish’ views on Russia. But Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence, Sen. Bob Corker, Newt Gingrich and John Bolton all understand the dangers of Kremlin revisionism and have backed stronger U.S. support for Ukraine. They should provide at least a moderating voice, if not a decisive one, in the formulation of the Trump administration’s policies toward Moscow and Kyiv.
LVIV – At the end of 2016, the first seven-year Comprehensive Campaign for the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), conducted under the theme “A New Generation for a New Ukraine” will come to a close. Towards this goal, five cities in America held fund-raisers in support of UCU this fall: Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. In the spring, a fund-raiser was held in northern New Jersey. Thanks to the generous support of benefactors and sponsors, more than $750,000 was raised for UCU at these events. The Comprehensive Campaign in support of UCU began in 2010.
Here we are just over three weeks after a U.S. election marked by controversy, contention and combativeness whose result was described by one TV news anchor as a “seismic shift.” Many questions remain about the direction of this country, as the new administration is a work in progress. At the same time, the anger throughout the land remains palpable after a very long and very hard-fought campaign that revealed, and caused, much divisiveness. And, we dare say, in many ways the 2016 election seemed to be even more difficult for our Ukrainian American community. This newspaper published disparate letters that supported Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – there was no unanimity on who would be best for the United States, and Ukraine, and the world. Social media were (and are) filled with nastiness and downright hostility.
Three years ago, on December 1, 2013, hundreds of thousands of protesters – some estimates ranged from 200,000 to 1 million – peacefully demonstrated at Independence Square in Kyiv following President Viktor Yanukovych’s November 30 decision not to sign an Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius that was hosted on November 28-29. Hundreds were injured in clashes between protesters and police, with the protesters outraged over incidents of police brutality at what would be known as the Euro-Maidan, later called the Revolution of Dignity. Although the protest began to secure Ukraine’s course toward Euro-integration, protesters demanded a complete overhaul of the government that had been plagued by corruption and mismanagement, with calls for the ouster of Mr. Yanukovych and the Cabinet of Ministers led by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. During the upheaval, Mr. Yanukovych flew to China on December 3 to secure additional loans for the tanking government, and Mr. Azarov called for charges to be filed against the Euro-Maidan participants. Ukraine’s Parliament held a vote to dismiss the Cabinet, but failed to gain enough votes, with another vote possible only after the next parliamentary session in February 2014.