KYIV – In a unified policy decision, 27 countries and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) banished 151 Russian diplomats over the alleged assassination attempt of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
Moscow has denied it was behind the March 4 attack in Salisbury that United Kingdom authorities suspect was committed using a lethal nerve agent developed by the Russian government.
WASHINGTON – Eugene Czolij, president of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), participated in a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council in Washington on Tuesday, March 20. The focus of the two-part panel was the price tag of the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Mr. Czolij, partner at the Lavery law firm, based in Montréal, along with other panelists including attorneys, economists and business leaders, spoke of the legal and international conditions for financial compensation and loss of future assets due to war.
On March 24, 134 bodies of victims of Soviet terror in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk were given a proper burial, Ukrinform reported. The victims were killed during the Communist terror of 1939-1941. They were discovered in the summer of 2017, when, while laying cables along the street, engineers stumbled upon several human remains. Judging by certain features of the burial site, scholars tend to believe that the remains belong to victims executed by the NKVD – the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the Soviet secret police organization from 1934 to 1946. The Bolsheviks used to bury their victims in ditches and hollows, without bothering to dig a deeper pit, which is why the remains were found so easily.
Vasyl Hrytsak, the head of the Security Service of Ukraine (known by its Ukrainian-based acronym as SBU), announced on March 9 that a prominent public figure, in collusion with the Moscow-backed leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), part of the temporarily occupied territories of the Donbas, had been systematically transporting weapons from the regions beyond Kyiv’s control into government-controlled Ukraine (Ssu.gov.ua, March 9). The authorities arrested Volodymyr Ruban on March 8, as he was entering government-controlled Ukraine. Inside the vehicle he was driving, the security services found a significant arsenal, ranging from Kalashnikov assault rifle and rocket-propelled-grenade (RPG) rounds to explosives, tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and a mortar, all hidden among furniture (Liga.net, March 9). This was clearly far more weaponry than Mr. Ruban could use alone. He is suspected by law enforcement of plotting terrorist attacks and assassination attempts against high government officials in Ukraine (Censor.net.ua, March 20).
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “The attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on NATO territory. On March 14, NATO allies made clear their deep concern, and condemnation of this reckless breach of international norms. Since then, intensive consultations have taken place among allies, including here at NATO and in capitals. Those consultations have resulted so far in the expulsion of over 140 Russian officials by over 25 NATO Allies and partners.” Mr. Stoltenberg explained, “This is a broad, strong and coordinated international response. And as part of that response, NATO is unified in taking further steps. I have today withdrawn the accreditation of seven staff at the Russian Mission to NATO.
KYIV – The European security organization responsible for monitoring the deadly conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine will reintroduce its long-range drone program more than a year and a half after it was dropped due to repeated shoot-downs. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (OSCE SMM) said in a statement that it will officially relaunch the program on March 28, near the government-controlled eastern Ukrainian city of Kostyantynivka. The drones will help “augment and complement its monitoring activities and to overcome impediments to monitoring in eastern Ukraine,” it said. The announcement comes amid fresh reports of what a Ukrainian volunteer military group alleges is a new Russian electronic-warfare system deployed near the frontline of the ongoing conflict. The OSCE SMM long-range drone program was nixed in August 2016 after several of its drones were downed by rifle fire, surface-to-air missiles and military-grade electronic jamming equipment.
NEW YORK – The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the largest grassroots representation of Americans of Ukrainian descent, welcomed the passage and signing into law on March 23 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which stipulates that “not less than $420,700,000 shall be made available for assistance for Ukraine.”
The expulsion of over 140 Russian diplomats by the governments of 27 countries in response to Moscow’s actions in the Skripal case show that the West is finally beginning to understand that appeasement won’t work with Vladimir Putin either, according to Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov.
“Vladimir Putin and the Russian officials doing his bidding must face severe consequences for their destabilizing activities around the world. The announcement of the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers is the latest sign that the U.S. is fighting back against Russian aggression and nefarious global actions. This announcement comes on the heels of U.S.-imposed sanctions for election meddling. We must respond strongly to Russia – its government does not share our interests or values and has succeeded in sowing discontent in the United States and among our greatest allies. We must continue to denounce and punish Putin’s actions without hesitation.”
– Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) in a statement released on March 26 in reaction to the expulsion of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the shuttering of the Russian Consulate in Seattle.
“It is encouraging that the Trump administration, in coordination with our allies in France, Germany, the U.K., and other countries of the EU, expelled Russian diplomats in response to the Skripal poisoning. This is important because allied unity is one of our greatest advantages in dealing with Kremlin aggression and provocations. The administration’s decision, not just to expel 60 Russian diplomats, but especially to close the Russian Consulate in Seattle, will make it much harder for Moscow to conduct espionage in the United States.
“While excellent, the coordinated trans-Atlantic action against Moscow should not be an excuse for the U.K. to rest after its expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. The Skripal attack is the second known Kremlin chemical weapon strike on British territory. That requires a much stronger reaction than expelling 23 diplomats. Let’s hope that vested interests in London do not prevent the imposition of British sanctions. If we want to see an end to such violations of sovereignty, the United States and others in Europe should coordinate with London to place additional sanctions on Russia.”
– Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, commenting on March 27.
CLEVELAND – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) met with representatives of Ohio’s nationalities communities at a gathering on Monday, March 19, chaired by the president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), Andriy Futey.
The meeting, organized by the American Nationalities Movement of Ohio, was attended by over 35 representatives of the Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Jewish, Czech, Slovenian, German, Slovak, Bulgarian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Hungarian and Lebanese communities and was held at the Lithuanian Community Center in Cleveland.