ByChristopher Guly / Special to The Ukrainian Weekly |
OTTAWA – While the Group of Seven (G-7) foreign ministers presented a united front against Russia in their recent two-day meetings at the University of Toronto (U of T), they could have gone even further in condemning the “threat to democracy” posed by the country, according to the founder and director of the G-7 Research Group at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the university.
KYIV – Ukraine’s historical Orthodox mother church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, has started deliberation on whether to grant Ukraine its own self-governing church known as autocephaly.
In a communiqué e-mailed to The Ukrainian Weekly on April 22, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople said “as its [Ukraine’s] true Mother Church,” that it has “decided to closely communicate and coordinate with its sister Orthodox Churches concerning this matter.”
From Moscow’s point of view, its loss of control over much of the Black Sea littoral and ports as a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union is a serious problem – one that Russian moves, first in Abkhazia and then in Crimea, were intended to help solve. Indeed, even before the Crimean annexation in 2014, Russian commentators talked about depriving Ukraine of its access to the sea by creating a new “Novorossiya” state that would extend to the borders of Moldova and possibly even include Transnistria (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, May 27, 2014; September 2, 2014).
When Russia-backed separatists seized control of Crimea in 2014, they took control of key military and government sites on the Ukrainian peninsula. They also targeted another institution – the branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is centered in Kyiv and not Moscow. The separatists singled out the churches, looting some, while calling their leaders “Nazis” and “rozkolniki” (those who broke away), a reference to the Church’s split with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP). Today, leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), as it is formally known, say the de facto authorities in Crimea are persecuting what is left of their Church, pushing them to the brink of oblivion. “The Russian occupation authorities have done everything so that the religious atmosphere on the peninsula is similar to theirs [Russia]; that is, loyal and controllable,” Archbishop Yevstratiy (Zorya), an official spokesman of the Church, said in a recent interview with RFE/RL.
A new U.S. State Department report has labeled the governments of Russia, Iran, China and North Korea as “morally reprehensible” with human rights violations on a daily basis, making them “forces of instability.”
While releasing the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017, an annual examination of human rights practices of nearly 200 countries, acting Secretary of State John Sullivan said on April 20 that while some governments are not able to maintain security and meet the basic needs of their people, others “are simply unwilling.”
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress released the following statement on April 24. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) expresses its deep condolences to all those who lost family and friends in the terrible attack in Toronto. May the memory of the victims be eternal. Вічная пам’ять. Yesterday, 10 people were killed and 15 injured in a deliberate and disgraceful attack when a man drove a van onto a busy pedestrian street near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue.
The latest appeals for a “Tomos of Autocephaly” for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with its center in Kyiv, under the authority of Constantinople, have been made in separate measures – one religious, the other political.
A statement of unity between the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate was issued to Constantinople. President Petro Poroshenko appealed for autocephaly for Ukraine’s Orthodox Church while visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, while a week later, Ukraine’s Parliament echoed the appeal with 268 voting in favor. The Opposition Bloc in Parliament voted against the measure and sent a letter of appeal to Patriarch Bartholomew complaining that the move would exacerbate a split in Orthodoxy in Ukraine. The same party members, who previously belonged to the Party of Regions, called this a PR stunt for Mr. Poroshenko in the upcoming presidential campaign. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate has voiced its displeasure with the move.
Twelve years ago, on April 26, 2006, on the 20th anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster of 1986, surviving “liquidators” were asked by RFE/RL about their recollections of the event.
Many of these clean-up workers during the immediate aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe were military personnel, workers and scientists from around the Soviet Union. They went without proper safety equipment, many of them not knowing where they were going. Thousands have since died and many of those still alive continue to battle against poor health and little state support. Nine months after the disaster, on January 1987, Talgat Suyunbai and 44 other Soviet Army officers arrived in the Belarusian village of Navasyolki, 40 kilometers from Chornobyl, “We heard rumors but didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “When I first arrived in Chornobyl, what struck me and stuck in my memory was the landscape.
Moscow becomes outraged by any Ukrainian suggestions that the Kuban has more in common with Ukraine than with the Russian Federation, suppressing the fact that until the 1930s Ukrainian was an official language there, alongside Russian, and that many Kuban Cossacks considered themselves to be ethnic Ukrainians. Indeed, as a new article on the Russian7 portal says, all this raises the question: “Why was the Kuban joined to Russia in 1924?” a question that the site answers in a way that explains why there is more reason for Ukrainians to view this area as Ukrainian than there is for Russians to view the Donbas as Russian (russian7.ru/post/pochemu-kuban-v-1924-godu-prisoedinilas/). The Kuban Cossack host arose in 1696 when a group of Don Cossacks took part in the occupation of Azov. Later, in 1708, this group was singled out with its current name. In the 18th century, as Russian forces moved south, the Kuban was Russianized but not entirely Russified and the Kuban Cossacks retained their distinct identity, the Russian historical site says.
In March, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, introduced a resolution commemorating the 85th anniversary of the Ukrainian Holodomor, Joseph Stalin’s genocide of the Ukrainian people.
The commemorative resolution, S. Res. 435, not only describes the Soviets’ horrific and systematic destruction of the Ukrainian people, but clearly stipulates that the U.S. Senate “recognizes the findings of the Commission on the Ukraine Famine as submitted to Congress on April 22, 1988, including that Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against the Ukrainians in 1932-1933.” This is a significant aspect of recognition of the Holodomor’s genocidal nature. When S. Res. 435 was introduced, it was also supported by several co-sponsors, including Sens.