New bill forces graft watchdogs to file declarations of assets

KYIV – Controversial amendments to the nation’s “e-declaration” law that require corruption watchdogs registered in Ukraine to file asset declarations went into effect on March 30. President Petro Poroshenko signed the bill this week after the Verkhovna Rada approved changes to Ukraine’s anti-corruption legislation on March 23. The measure obliges employees of civil society groups that monitor graft and the vendors with whom they conduct business to disclose their incomes and purchasing activity. Their first asset declarations are due in 2018. Non-governmental organizations that fight corruption will now join the 50,000 high-level public officials, including the president, the prime minister, Cabinet members, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, local government officials and managers of state-owned companies who must file electronic declarations.

Bipartisan congressional resolution condemns Russian aggression in Ukraine

Urges maintenance of sanctions on Moscow

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on March 27 introduced a resolution condemning illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine and urging the president to maintain sanctions on Russia as long as it continues its military aggression in the country. The resolution follows the three-year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea earlier in March. “The United States must stand with Ukraine against Russian aggression,” said Sen. Portman, co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “The anniversary of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea is an opportunity to highlight the continued challenges Ukraine faces, as well as the fundamental principles of the U.S.-led international system at stake.

Ukraine asks U.S. for status as major non-NATO ally

KYIV – Ukrainian national deputies on March 22 adopted draft resolution No. 6111 – the appeal of the Verkhovna Rada to the U.S. Congress regarding security guarantees. The resolution was supported by 232 members of the Ukrainian Parliament. “Ukraine seeks to significantly deepen the bilateral security partnership between Ukraine and the United States… In accordance with the spirit and letter of the Budapest Memorandum, as well as for sake of the development of the strategic partnership between our states, we ask the United States to consider the issue of concluding a defensive agreement with Ukraine and granting Ukraine the status of a major non-NATO ally,” the resolution says.

European Union poised to scrap visa requirements for Ukraine

Negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union struck an informal deal on February 28 for Ukrainian citizens to travel visa free throughout the European Union, except for in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Later, the deal was endorsed by the civil liberties committee of the European Parliament (Ukrayinska Pravda, March 9). Although EU bureaucratic procedures still require a formal approval of the deal by the European Parliament and the European Council, Ukraine is now almost sure to follow Georgia into the privileged club of countries whose citizens do not need visas to enter the EU’s border-free Schengen area. The formal endorsement is expected in May, and Ukrainians will start to travel to the Schengen area without visas by the end of June, according to EU Ambassador Hugh Mingarelli (UNIAN, March 13; Ukrayinska Pravda, March 2). Visa-free travel to the EU was one of the main demands of the pro-European protesters in November 2013.

D.C.’s dysfunction may embolden Moscow, as Russian defector is gunned down in Kyiv

Diplomats from the United States and Russian are preparing for U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s planned visit to Moscow next month. Mr. Tillerson will be talking with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and possibly meeting President Vladimir Putin. Traditionally, U.S. secretaries of state have an audience with Mr. Putin while in Moscow: Mr. Putin, not Mr. Lavrov, is Russia’s true foreign policy decision-maker. As CEO of ExxonMobil, Mr. Tillerson signed multi-billion-dollar oil deals with Rosneft’s Igor Sechin, a close Putin confidante. In 2013, Mr. Putin decorated Mr. Tillerson with the Order of Friendship – the top Russian decoration that may be given to a foreigner – in appreciation of his joint work with Mr. Sechin and Rosneft.

UNA representatives visit St. Nicholas Parish in Passaic

PASSAIC, N.J. – The New Jersey District of the Ukrainian National Association hosted a presentation by Roman Osadca titled “The World of Garlic” on Sunday, March 5, after liturgy at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Passaic N.J.

This was the third in a series of fraternal events sponsored by the UNA that were tailored to provide local communities an opportunity to congregate and learn more about what the UNA has to offer as a fraternal benefit society. Oksana Stanko, the district chairperson, welcomed the parishioners and introduced UNA National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk. Mr. Symczyk thanked the pastor, the Rev. Andriy Dudkewych, for his hospitality in allowing the UNA to host the event. He spoke about the benefits of membership in the UNA, inviting everyone to pick up the “Guide to Life,” UNA’s new publication, at the display table.

UNA supports Ukrainian Heritage Day at New Jersey Devils hockey game

NEWARK, N.J. – The Ukrainian National Association and its two newspapers, The Ukrainian Weekly and Svoboda, were major partners of the Ukrainian Heritage Day held on March 19 at the Prudential Center during a National Hockey League game between the home team, the New Jersey Devils, and the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets. Seen above at the UNA information table – where booklets about the UNA’s offerings, copies of The Weekly and Svoboda, the Ukrainian Heritage Day program and Ukrainian flags were distributed to all interested – are: (from left) Ola Bihuniak, UNA National Secretary Yuriy Symczyk, Maria Drich and Tanya Bihuniak.

A community milestone

Within our Ukrainian American community, there are many milestones that we come together to commemorate or celebrate, ranging from anniversaries of various organizations and historic events to local events like first holy communions and Ukrainian school graduations. One of our most celebrated milestones is the annual presentation of debutantes at gala balls held across the country. A tradition that goes back to the 1950s in this country and to the 1920s and 1930s in Lviv, Ukraine, these balls are truly a community event as we welcome the next generation of young people into our hromada. Notice that we said young people, not young ladies? Well, that’s because we know full well it’s not only the parents of our lovely girls who are proud to introduce their children (soon to be adults) to society.

April 5, 1967

Fifty years ago, Archbishop Mstyslav, president of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., wrote an open letter that appeared in the April 5, 1967, issue of The New York Times. The letter, addressed to the editor of Radianska Ukraina in Kyiv, accused the central government of the Soviet Union of complicity in the case of former Nazi Reichskommissar Erich Koch. Archbishop Mstyslav said that he was publishing the article in English “to make certain that the message of my letter reaches” the editor of Radianska Ukraina. A Ukrainian-language version of the letter was sent directly to the newspaper’s office in Kyiv. A story carried on February 26, 1967, by Radianska Ukraina prompted the letter by the archbishop.

Voronenkov murder and arms dump explosion may suggest Putin is getting ready to attack

“Two terrible events in one day” – the murder in Kyiv of former Russian Duma member Denis Voronenkov and the blowing up of the Balakliya arms dump, the largest in Europe – may mean that Vladimir Putin has launched “a major diversion” in preparation for an expansion of his attacks on Ukraine, according to Avraam Shmulyevich. The Israeli analyst argues that such diversions have often preceded Mr. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere, and that there are compelling reasons to think that he believes he can break the Ukrainian regime of Petro Poroshenko and put himself in line to advance on Kyiv (ru.tsn.ua/blogi/themes/politics/plohi-dela-829025.html). “In any Western country, such events – even more when they occur simultaneously – would be sufficient to raise the issue of trust in all ministers of the force block and even the head of government because such things in a normally organized country cannot be allowed by definition,” Mr. Shmulyevich says. Protecting a prominent defector is obviously a matter of importance for the state because such an act of liquidation “must be excluded in principle,” and “the very largest dump of military materiel must not be blown up or blow itself up.” However, in Ukraine this week, “the deputy was killed and the dump blown up.”

The causes of the explosion are not yet completely clear, “but the best variant about which it is possible to dream is that this was a diversion of Russia.” If it blew up on its own or by the actions of Ukrainians, then the conclusions would be much worse. They would suggest that all critical infrastructure in that country, including atomic power stations, are at risk.