First OSCE observer killed in Russia’s war against Ukraine
KYIV – It usually takes events of international significance for the world to once again notice that Russia is still waging war in Ukraine, which is already in its fourth year and has claimed more than 10,000 lives and uprooted 2 million people from their homes. This time, it was the tragic death of Joseph Stone, a 36-year-old American paramedic who was killed on April 23 when the armored vehicle he was in likely struck a landmine in the village of Pryshyb in occupied Luhansk Oblast. He was part of a team of unarmed observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the 57-nation body that is charged with monitoring a truce that has never fully taken hold between the warring sides. The incident marked the first death of an active duty OSCE observer in Ukraine since the monitoring mission started in March 2014. Two other monitors, a German woman and a Czech man, were injured in the blast, but are in stable condition.
KYIV – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has compared the April 26, 1986, Chornobyl nuclear disaster with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine’s east, adding that “Russia is conducting an undeclared war against his country.”
President Poroshenko spoke at the defunct nuclear power plant, where he and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka lamented the “unhealing wound” inflicted by the Soviet-era accident 31 years ago and commemorated its victims.
“We again have buried thousands of people. Again we have hundreds of thousands of displaced people,” Mr. Poroshenko said, referring to the conflict with Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 9,900 people in eastern Ukraine since 2014. “I am confident that together, we will defeat that demon as well,” he said. Mr. Lukashenka voiced solidarity, saying that “Belarusians are and will always be your reliable friends” – a tacit reassurance that while Belarus is Russia’s ally, it is also wary of Moscow and does not support Russia’s infringements on Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Reactor No.
CHICAGO – Guests gathered for a memorable event on March 25 in the galleries of the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago to celebrate its 45th anniversary. The UIMA was filled to capacity, as its supporters welcomed special guests, among them the Rev. Myron Panchuk, who has been a member of the institute for all its years; Larysa Gerasko, consul general of Ukraine in Chicago; keynote speaker Valya Roenko-Simpson; bandurist Ivan Shmilo; directors of the Heritage Foundation of First Security Federal Savings Bank; and directors of Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union and the Selfreliance Foundation. The UIMA was founded in 1971 by Konstantin Milonadis, Mychajlo Urban, Wasyl Kacurowsky, Dr. Achille and Vera Chreptowsky, and Oleh Kowerko, a group of visionaries of the post-World War ll political wave of Ukrainian immigration who understood the importance of a venue for all forms of contemporary artistic creativity and expression. They planted the seed that eventually grew into the beautiful galleries of the nationally and internationally recognized Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art. Initially, the UIMA occupied two floors of a three-story brownstone building, but after a few years, the need for a larger space became apparent.
As the month of March came to a close, Russia conducted a series of unprecedented land, air and sea drills at the “Opuk” combat training area, located near the city of Theodosia, in annexed Crimea. These coordinated exercises, involving thousands of troops, notably marked the first time that the Russian military “simultaneously alerted” its three large airborne units – the 7th Mountain Airborne-Assault Division (Novorossiysk), the 11th Airborne-Assault Brigade (Ulan-Ude) and the 56th Airborne-Assault Brigade (Kamyishin). During the exercises, these airborne units worked out joint actions in close interaction with the 801st Marine Infantry Brigade, the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade, aviation, ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet (RBSF), as well as units of the Russian Aerospace Forces (RASF). In total, more than 2,500 troops and up to 600 combat and auxiliary vehicles, artillery, combat ships (including large landing vessels), and more than 45 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters took part in these land-air-sea exercises (Dsnews.ua, March 24). The commander in charge of the Russian exercises, Col.
Russia’s provocative moves in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as the continuing occupation of Crimea and the threat of large-scale war in Donbas, can serve as useful test cases for uniting Georgia’s and Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts. The Ukrainian delegation to the United Nations took the initiative to discuss the situation in the occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – at a recent meeting of the U.N. Security Council (Un.org, March 28). Volodymyr Yelchenko, the permanent representative of Ukraine to the U.N., invited the members of the Security Council to express their countries’ positions on the process of “absorption” of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian armed formations by the Russian army. He also brought up the referendum on renaming South Ossetia that was to be held in this region on April 9 (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, March 21). [According to RFERL, some 78 percent of voters supported a proposal to change the region’s name from the Republic of South Ossetia to the Republic of South Ossetia-Alania.
WASHINGTON – Following the death on April 23 of a U.S. paramedic serving in the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) when his vehicle struck an explosive – likely a landmine – in separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Roger Wicker spoke on the Senate floor on the evening of April 24 to condemn the incident, express his condolences to the family of the victim, Joseph Stone, and call for the Russian government to end the cycle of violence that resulted in the tragedy. “Had Russia lived up to the Minsk agreements, and ceased supporting, directing, funding, and fueling separatists in this region, there would have been no need for the [monitoring] mission to continue,” Sen. Wicker (R-Miss.) said. “[The monitors] play an essential role in the understanding of the situation on the ground, often under extremely difficult circumstances… the tragic death of American Joseph Stone underscores the need for the OSCE monitors to have unfettered access across the frontlines and across the border regions controlled by the separatists,” he continued. “I commend the Austrian foreign minister, who serves as OSCE chair-in-office, for calling attention to this tragedy and calling for an immediate investigation into these events. Those who are responsible … should be held accountable.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the family of the American paramedic who was killed when his vehicle hit a landmine in Ukraine over the weekend. The international personnel serving in the OSCE mission in Ukraine are working hard, at great personal risk, to keep an eye on the devastating and deteriorating conditions in that country and hold aggressors accountable. The car was driving in the Russian-backed separatist territory in eastern Ukraine. I therefore call upon Russia to provide full support for an investigation of this incident. More broadly, the onus is on Russia to ensure that there is full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
PHILADELPHIA – Archbishop Stefan Soroka, metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, on April 20 announced the appointment of Bishop Venedykt (Valery) Aleksiychuk, M.S.U., as the bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago. “The hierarchy, clergy, religious and faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S.A. joyfully rejoice with the good news of the Holy Father Pope Francis’ appointment of the Most Rev. Venedykt (Valery) Aleksiychuk, M.S.U., as the bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Nicholas in Chicago,” the metropolitan stated. Bishop Aleksiychuk has up until now served as auxiliary bishop of Lviv. He will be the fifth bishop of St.
OSTROH, Ukraine – Dr. Lubomyr R. Wynar, the prominent scholar, academic organizer, founder and editor for many years of the journal Ukrainian Historian, passed away on Easter Sunday, April 16, in Woodstock, Ga. He was 85. His death, following a brief illness, constitutes a huge loss for historical scholarship and for his family and colleagues. Lubomyr Roman Wynar was born in Lviv on December 16, 1931, (the official date of birth is January 2, 1932) to a family of educators. Despite difficult times, he obtained an excellent education (he began his secondary education at the Academic Gymnasium in Lviv and continued in gymnasiums in the displaced persons (DP) camps, initially in Karlsfeld and later in Berchtesgaden).
UNITED NATIONS – The Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, along with two U.N.-accredited NGO partners, the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO) and the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), organized “A Celebration of Women’s Voices” in honor of International Mother Language Day on March 10 at the U. N. Headquarters in New York City. Despite an unexpected snowstorm, several hundred guests attended the lovely afternoon event. International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1999 “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world,” and active commemorations began in 2007. This year, on the eve of the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, the Ukrainian celebration of International Mother Language Day honored the legacy of women’s voices in Ukrainian arts and literature. Following greetings by Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Undersecretary-General Catherine Pollard in her remarks underscored the importance of women and their communities to the United Nations’ mission.