CHICAGO – The Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA) held its 44th Scientific Conference and 37th Assembly of Delegates on Wednesday through Saturday, June 14-18, at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. The theme of the biennial convention was “Rehabilitation and Reintegration – Helping Ukrainians Help Themselves.”
The conference was dedicated to familiarizing participants with Ukraine’s health care challenges in the face of ongoing war, economic instability and political reform. This is a time of great anxiety but also one of great promise and opportunity. Continuing hostilities in eastern Ukraine are inflicting debilitating military and civilian casualties, raising the demand for rehabilitation medicine. Survivors are in need of services to reintegrate them back into society as useful and productive citizens.
It’s been three years since a passenger airliner was shot out of the sky over the beautiful fields of Ukraine in a war zone created by Russian and Russian-backed forces. On July 17, 2014, a terrorist act – plain and simple – was committed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was downed and all 298 passengers and crew were killed. The victims hailed from 17 countries – 189 of them from the Netherlands. A year later, we saw newly released video footage of “separatists” sifting through the wreckage of the Boeing 777, realizing that this was a civilian aircraft, and then callously going through the belongings of the dead. It was a scene that Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said was “sickening to watch.”
Three years after the downing, the world is closer to knowing not only what happened, but also how it happened and who was responsible.
Russia’s decision two years ago, on July 29, 2015, to veto a United Nations resolution that would create an international tribunal regarding the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, drew sharp criticism from 11 out of the 15 U.N. Security Council members who backed the resolution. Supporters of the resolution were three of the five permanent members of the UNSC: France, the United Kingdom, the United States; and eight of the 10 non-permanent members: Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria and Spain. The remaining three members, Angola, China and Venezuela, abstained. The tribunal would have been tasked with investigating and trying those responsible for firing the missile that caused the Boeing 777 to crash on Russia-occupied territory of eastern Ukraine. The proposal was backed by Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
The following statement by Pavlo Klimkin, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, was released by the Embassy of Ukraine in the U.S. on July 18. Three years ago, a world becoming accustomed to the most despicable terrorist outrages was shocked and stunned when 298 passengers and crew members of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were blasted out of the skies over Ukraine. For many around the world, it brought the Russian-fomented war in the Donbas to their attention for the first time. Even for Ukrainians, including those facing death in the Donbas, it was impossible to believe that terrorists had the ability to hit the civilian aircraft 11,000 meters above the ground. Even with all the support Russia was known to be providing, it was simply not credible or believable in any way.
Westerners carefully distinguish between Russians and the Russian state, showing sympathy to the former and concern about the behavior of the latter, the kind of distinction even Stalin made between the Nazis and the German people but one the Putin regime does not, instead exploiting the basest nationalistic feelings, Vladislav Inozemtsev says. In an RBC commentary, the Moscow economist and analyst writes that the Russian government is “teaching Russians to be afraid of the surrounding world and, therefore, politicians in Moscow tell tales about how people in this world hate Russians” (rbc.ru/opinions/politics/28/06/2017/59539f189a7947230ea53eb7). “In my view,” Mr. Inozemtsev says, “such rhetoric discredits the Russian political class by demonstrating both the low level of understanding of what is taking place today in the world and a general inadequacy of the [Russian] political elite, which is living in a reality invented by itself” rather than in real reality. Everyone must remember, he continues, that “the term ‘Russophobia’ refers precisely to Russians… and not to the Russian state.” But the Kremlin wants to conflate the two in order to force Russians to think that the West opposes them and not just the policies of Vladimir Putin and his entourage. Any Russians who have travelled or lived abroad can confirm that ordinary people in the West are not hostile to the Russian people.
The Ukrainian World Congress is proud to be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017, marking five decades of being the voice of the Ukrainian people within the international community. In 1967, the Congress of Freedom united Ukrainians from 17 countries into a powerful voice of resistance to the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union and created the World Congress of Free Ukrainians (WCFU). Following the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the WCFU was renamed the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC). The UWC’s objectives have always been clear. In 1967 it was the renewal of an independent Ukrainian state.
Canada turned 150 on July 1. From “a few acres of snow” it has been transformed into one of the world’s most prosperous countries, consistently ranking in the top 10 happiest places to live. It is also a global leader in human rights and multiculturalism. Canadians of Ukrainian descent were instrumental in developing both concepts. Walter Tarnopolsky led the articulation of human rights and civil liberties domestically and internationally.
Anyone following Russia’s war against Ukraine in the Donbas has probably heard of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its Special Monitoring Mission (SMM). The OSCE SMM is an unarmed, civilian mission now numbering around 900 monitors and staff whose main task is to observe and report on the situation in Ukraine and facilitate dialogue between all parties to the conflict. Their task is not an easy one, especially given the profound failure by Russia and its separatist proxies to implement their Minsk agreement obligations, which as first steps include a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons and allowing access by the OSCE to all of the occupied territories up to the international border with Russia. OSCE SMM monitors have been intimidated, harassed and physically attacked by the so-called “Russian-separatist” forces. In April, American Joseph Stone became the first member of the SMM to be killed in the line of duty while on patrol in the occupied territories.
At the launch of my book “Putin’s War Against Ukraine” in Parliament organized by Hanna Hopko, head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a German student asked about anti-Semitism in Ukraine. The question had nothing to do with my book but reflected the Western view of a Ukraine where anti-Semitism thrives. I replied that she should be looking for anti-Semitism in Germany and France, as these countries have the highest rates in Europe with attacks often committed by Muslim immigrants. Monitoring of anti-Semitic media articles and violent acts shows Ukraine to have one of the lowest rates in Europe. There are four reasons why Ukraine has this image.
NEW YORK – A Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report is critical of a Ukrainian investigation into the killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet, with no arrests in the case and more questions than answers nearly one year after his car-bomb death in Kyiv. The report, “Justice Denied: Ukraine Comes Up Empty In Probe Of Pavel Sheremet’s Murder,” suggests an independent investigation is needed, as Ukrainian officials have provided no evidence to back claims that Russia was behind the assassination and to ensure a complete probe into possible Ukrainian involvement. “Authorities say they are committed to solving Sheremet’s murder,” Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, writes in the introduction to the report. “But [they] offer no clear evidence to back their primary line of investigation of Russian involvement.” The report, written by Kyiv-based reporter Christopher Miller, an RFE/RL correspondent, adds that “a greater amount of circumstantial evidence points to a Ukrainian trace [in the killing], raising questions about why authorities are pushing the Russian narrative and whether they may be covering up evidence to protect someone powerful.” Sheremet, 44, was a well-known reporter who had worked at prominent media outlets in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine during his career and was often the subject of threats and harassment for his hard-hitting journalism that was often critical of political leaders. The native Belarusian died early on July 20, 2016, when his car blew up at an intersection a few minutes after he left his central Kyiv apartment on his way to Radio Vesti, where he had a morning program.