WASHINGTON – At the fifth annual yearly summit of the U.S.-Ukraine working group, the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations (CUSUR) presented an expanded program with over two dozen scholars, diplomats, and foreign and military affairs experts addressing a rapt audience in Washington. In a conference room located one city block west of the White House, six ambassadors – five former and one current – joined with the current chairman of Ukraine’s Parliament, Ukraine’s acting minister of health and a sitting U.S. senator to “take the measure of Ukraine’s 2016-2017 progress/regress.”
ByChristopher Guly / Special to The Ukrainian Weekly |
OTTAWA – Canada is in no rush to equip Ukraine with long-requested weapons in its fight against Russian-backed separatist forces, Canada’s national defense minister told a Ukrainian Canadian audience here on June 21. Canada’s goal in providing military assistance to Ukraine is to “de-escalate the conflict” and not “create any more suffering” for Ukrainians, Harjit Sajjan said at a town-hall meeting at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine that was organized by the Ottawa branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC). “We want Russia to leave Ukraine alone,” the defense minister said. But several attendees asked the minister whether the Canadian government would go beyond its military training mission, and, as one questioner raised, provide Ukraine with arms, not soldiers as Canada has been sending to help train Ukrainian soldiers since 2015 – a mission that earlier this year was extended to 2019.
KYIV – Three high-ranking Ukrainian service personnel have been killed in car explosions in the past three months, leading some experts to believe that Russia is specifically targeting an emerging cadre of proven field leaders. Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) Col. Yuriy Voznyi became the latest victim on June 27. A passenger vehicle in which he was sitting exploded in the Kostiatynivka district of Donetsk Oblast, according to the SBU. The military prosecutor’s office is investigating the death and has classified it as a terrorist act.
KYIV – Greg Stricharchuk, 67, grew up in the multi-ethnic Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland believing he was Russian. He worshipped at the St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral and attended wedding receptions at Lemko Hall, both of which were featured in the Oscar-winning 1978 movie “The Deer Hunter.”
His father, Josip, was a crane operator at a local steel plant in the Flats of Cleveland for 40 years. His mother, Eva (née Ziatyk), was a homemaker before working at Perfection Stove for 13 years and prior to that ran a food stand for 10 years at the old Cleveland Stadium until 1967, the year that Mr. Stricharchuk graduated from high school. The retired journalist with nearly 50 years of experience even took Russian language lessons upon his parents’ urging at the church.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree, back on May 15, introducing a new package of sanctions against Russian companies and individuals (President.gov.ua, May 15). However, it was the decision to block two extremely popular Russian online social networks – Vkontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki, embraced by more than 15 million Ukrainians – that produced the most heated debates. To justify their decision, Ukrainian officials argued that these resources are regularly employed by Russia for intelligence-gathering and propaganda purposes (Epravda.com.ua, May 16). In the immediate aftermath, the Russian Internet space (Runet) lost approximately half of its normal Ukrainian traffic and the number of Ukrainian-based Facebook users increased by 35 percent, whereas the popularity of the browser Opera “went through the roof” (Tns-ua.com, accessed June 5). Notably, Opera features free, built-in virtual private network (VPN) support, allowing the user to mask his or her physical location and thus circumvent geolocation-based restrictions.
The trajectory of the manageable but mismanaged confrontation between the United States and Russia has fluctuated since the start of the year. And just recently, it registered at least four significant turns for the worse. Hopes for improvement in Moscow have all but dissipated, giving way to the usual game of blaming Washington for every conflict in the world and all the problems in the Russian economy. President Vladimir Putin, again accused the former Obama administration and “Russophobes” in the U.S. Congress for the setbacks in reaching a new start in relations and expressed confidence that President Donald Trump would prevail over his enemies (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, June 16). Mr. Putin refrained from commenting on the most recent negative events, but a series of Russian diplomatic signals and military counter-measures shows that the Kremlin has shifted gears in preparation for a new escalation in tensions.
WASHINGTON – More than three dozen Ukrainian Americans from Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, California, Virginia and Oregon came together on Wednesday, June 14, for the second Ukrainian Day advocacy event this year. “Since the Revolution of Dignity, we have held Ukrainian Day advocacy events at least two to three times a year – an opportunity during which we meet with our elected representatives to speak on topics related to Ukraine,” noted event organizer Michael Sawkiw, director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the public affairs office of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). “It is incredibly important that the Ukrainian community support and attend these advocacy events to relate our concerns to members of Congress about the need for greater support for Ukraine during these turbulent and inspiring times in its history,” Mr. Sawkiw noted. “Ukrainian Americans must send a message that Ukraine’s courage to fight for democracy is not Ukraine’s battle alone and must be supported vigorously by the United States.”
The day began with a briefing session for participants to review various congressional bills that affect Ukraine. They were also briefed by foreign policy and law experts who spoke about the role of the community in its advocacy of issues in Congress.
WASHINGTON – On Thursday, June 15, Dr. Ulana Suprun, Ukraine’s acting minister of health, received the Shevchenko Freedom Award, the highest accolade accorded by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest representation of Ukrainians in America. Established in 1962, the award is named in honor of Ukraine’s poet-laureate and national hero Taras Shevchenko and is bestowed upon individuals who have displayed a remarkable understanding and given substantial assistance to the Ukrainian American community and the Ukrainian people. As Dr. Suprun was unable to attend last year’s XXII Congress of Ukrainians in America, the UCCA’s former president, Tamara Olexy, and current president, Andriy Futey, along with Michael Sawkiw, the director of the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) and UCCA executive vice-president, had the honor of presenting the 2016 Shevchenko Freedom Award to Dr. Suprun in Washington during the U.S.-Ukraine Working Group Yearly Summit V: “Providing Ukraine With An Annual Report Card.”
Dr. Suprun, a physician, has a long-established record of support not only for Ukraine but for the Ukrainian American community. Prior to her appointment as acting minister of health, she was the director of Humanitarian Initiatives of the Ukrainian World Congress, and the founder of the Patriot Defence project that continues to provide tactical and emergency medical training to soldiers on the frontlines in Ukraine. Dr. Suprun is also a long-time member of the UCCA and the former chair of the UCCA’s Council on Aid to Ukrainians.
“Holodomor 1932-1933. Famine-Genocide in Ukraine. In memory of the millions of innocent victims of a man-made famine in Ukraine engineered and implemented by Stalin’s totalitarian regime.” That’s the text on the Holodomor Memorial in Washington. That this evocative memorial was erected in 2015 warks a huge accomplishment and a significant step toward raising public awareness. The hope is, of course, that seeing the memorial will move visitors to read up on the Holodomor.
Last year, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization held its summit in Warsaw on July 8-9 and the NATO-Russian Council met in Brussels on July 13 at the ambassador level. Pavel Felgenhauer offered his analysis of the 2016 meetings. Noting the lack of progress from the meetings, Mr. Felgenhauer cited the statements of Secretary General Jens Stoltenburg and Alexander Grushko, ambassador of Russia at NATO headquarters, who agreed that the discussions were “frank” but that disagreements persisted. Mr. Grushko was critical of NATO’s decision to deploy an additional four reinforced army battalions (of approximately 1,000 soldiers each) in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, NATO insisted that the move was made in response to Russia’s increased military activity in the region, as well as its aggressive actions in Ukraine that compelled NATO to reinforce its Eastern flank.