February 27, 2012

Five years ago, on February 27, 2012, security forces in Russia and Ukraine announced that they had thwarted a plot to assassinate Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russian state-run television Channel 1 alleged that the plot was to be carried out shortly after Russia’s presidential election on March 4. In the report, separate footage showed two alleged plotters saying they were ordered by North Caucasus insurgent commander Doku Umarov to kill Mr. Putin. The Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed law enforcement official as saying the plot was uncovered after Ukrainian intelligence agents detained two Russian citizens in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa early in February in connection with an accidental bomb blast in the city in January. One of the videos, provided by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), showed suspect Illya Pyanzin, a 28-year-old Kazakh citizen, who had traveled to Ukraine from the United Arab Emirates with a Russian national, an accomplice who was later killed in the accidental bomb blast.

Ayshe Seitmuratova – a Crimean Tatar heroine at 80

A nation and those who care about it should know its heroes, and for Crimean Tatars, one of the greatest is Ayshe Seitmuratova, the only woman of her nation the Soviets arrested and condemned twice, who on February 11 marked her 80th birthday in her Russian-occupied homeland. In an appreciation of her life so far, Crimean historian Gulnara Bekirova notes that Ms. Seitmuratova is “an individual with a complicated fate and with a complicated and very strong character” who began at an early age the struggle for her “much-suffering people” and “has never retreated from it” in all the years since (ru.krymr.com/a/ 28303848.html). At the age of 29, she was arrested in the place of her Samarkand exile by the KGB and brought to Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison.  She spent seven months there before being found guilty of producing materials about how the USSR treated the Crimean Tatars, for which she was sentenced to three years conditionally. That was supposed to dissuade her from further “dissident” activities, but it didn’t. And three years later she was arrested again and this time sentenced to three years in the notorious camps in Mordovia.

Moscow hands out Russian passports in Donbas as Putin recognizes DNR and LNR documents

Even as Vladimir Putin decreed that Moscow recognizes documents issued by its clients, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic,” Russian officials in at least seven places in the Donbas were handing out Russian passports – a repetition of what Moscow did in South Ossetia in 2008. The two steps are in fact interrelated, Aleksandr Artishchenko and Lidiya Grigoryeva of the Versia portal suggest. They mean that residents of the DNR and LNR can now take Russian citizenship on the basis of their own documents rather than on those of Ukraine, thus easing and accelerating the process (versia.ru/novye-grazhdane-rossii-iz-dnr-i-lnr-zhdut-vezhlivyx-lyudej). And that, in turn, suggests three more important things, the two authors say. First, it is an indication that Moscow may very well have had enough with negotiating about the fate of the Donbas and is prepared to live with or at least threaten to live with a frozen conflict there for a long time.

In memory of the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred

On February 20, Ukrainians all over the world pause to mark the Day of Commemoration of the Heavenly Hundred (also known as the Heavenly Brigade, from the Ukrainian term “Небесна Сотня”). The following statement was released in Ottawa by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. In November 2013, the people of Ukraine rose up in protest against the authoritarian, corrupt regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych. On Kyiv’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosty), and city squares throughout the country, the Ukrainian people made of their government a simple demand – to be treated with Dignity. They demanded democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

The West should not abandon Ukraine

“In troubled times, Canada Should Not Abandon Ukraine,” editorial, The Globe and Mail, January 31 (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/ukraine-at-a-distance/article33852834/):

Canada should renew its military training mission to Ukraine, and not let it expire at the end of March. Rumor has it that the mission – called Operation UNIFIER, for some reason – will continue. But the Cabinet has not yet made a decision, and its scale (up or down) remains in doubt. In this case, more is better. That is because the conflict in the Donbas region in the southeast of Ukraine is getting worse.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on third anniversary of Russian aggression

The following statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the “Third Anniversary of Military Aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine” was released on February 20. (The text of the English translation has been slightly edited for clarity.)

On February 20, 2014, the Russian Federation launched the military aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine. Three years have passed since the treacherous attack by the neighboring state, despite its commitment to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, as well as its status as one of the guarantors of the security and territorial integrity of Ukraine according to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Although the Revolution of Dignity clearly reconfirmed the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to build a European, democratic and prosperous Ukraine, the Kremlin responded by attempting to deprive Ukrainians of the right to define their future on their own. Russia launched a well-planned military operation, which resulted in the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as in bloodshed in Donbas.

“Bitter Harvest” presents opportunity

Dear Editor:

The film “Bitter Harvest” provides us with the opportunity to put the spotlight on the topics of Ukraine, genocide and the Holodomor beyond the Ukrainian community among Americans, Canadians, etc. Within the Ukrainian community, the film “Bitter Harvest” is rightfully receiving appropriate attention. Please send film fliers to your American friends, to your high schools, to surrounding American churches; place advertisements in the American press. Perhaps, we need to collect funds to advertise the film in the American media. This film offers us a public relations opportunity to use the words “Ukraine,” “genocide” and “Holodomor.” We do not have many such opportunities.

Haran speaks on geopolitical attitudes in Ukraine and their policy implications

MONTREAL – Ukrainians were interested in joining the European Union before the Euro-Maidan, but it was not at the top of their list of nation-building priorities. The idea of Ukrainians identifying themselves with Western Europe, rather than with Russia, did not generate enough power to mobilize the nation until 2014. In a recent lecture at the Shevchenko Scientific Society’s chapter in Montreal, Olexiy Haran, professor of comparative politics at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and the academic director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, reviewed the events and the Ukrainian people’s attitudes that shaped Kyiv’s policy over the last life-changing four years. To begin with, it was only after then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of Ukraine’s future membership in NATO, his subsequent refusal to sign the Association Agreement with the EU, and only after the Euro-Maidan that public opinion toward Ukraine’s membership in these organizations changed. What was the scene before all that?

Ukrainian National Museum presents talk on Museum of Book and Printing in Ukraine

CHICAGO – Valentyna Bochkovska-Martynovych, director of the Museum of Book and Printing in Ukraine and a Fulbright scholar for  2016-2017, delivered a presentation on December 30, 2016, at the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago. She has served as director of the museum in Kyiv since 2008. In her first note as director, she wrote:  “Our museum is about people with big dreams – Ukrainian book publishers who worked under conditions that were sometimes not the most conducive.  These people brought us the past, present and future. This treasure we are studying and sharing with you.”

Supplementing her presentation with an abundance of slides, Ms. Bochkovska-Martynovych escorted her audience through a vivid history of the work of the Museum of Book and Printing in Ukraine from the inception of book publishing into a modern cultural venue. The museum is situated in the old building of the  Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra Printing House.

Honoring the heroes of the Heavenly Brigade

KYIV – People gathered on February 20 in the city center of Kyiv to mark the third anniversary of the bloodiest day of protests during the Euro-Maidan that led to the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. The commemorations honored the heroes of the Heavenly Brigade, who were killed in February 2014. According to RFE/RL, Ukrainian prosecutors say 104 people were killed and 2,500 injured in the protests, which became known as the Revolution of Dignity

Among those paying tribute to the heroes of the “Nebesna Sotnia” on February 20 were Dr. Borys Buniak and Lida Buniak of Fayetteville, N.Y., who were on a visit to Kyiv, where they met with Dr. Ulana Suprun, Ukraine’s acting minister of health, as well as representatives of various charitable organizations to see how the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (of which Borys Buniak is president) could help with humanitarian aid, medical reform, educational exchanges, psychological services and rehabilitation programs.

On this page, Dr. Buniak shares his moving photos of the reverence shown by the people of Ukraine at memorial events for the “Heavenly Hundred.” Ms. Buniak underscored on her Facebook page: “…We pray for those who sacrificed themselves for our country, for our culture, for our nation and for all Ukrainians. The Revolution of Dignity continues in all our hearts.”