KYIV – As World Cup host Russia was losing to Uruguay 0-3 in the quadrennial soccer tournament on June 25, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was in the 43rd day of his hunger strike at a Siberian prison and 44 pounds lighter from when he first started refusing solid food.
Another political prisoner, Volodymyr Balukh, was in the 99th day of his, at first partial and subsequently full, hunger strike in a Crimean prison. The farmer had hung a Ukrainian flag atop his house in the Russia-annexed Ukrainian peninsula, according to human rights groups, and was charged with “insulting an official” for calling Russian police officers “occupiers.”
ByU.S. Senate offices of Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal |
WASHINGTON – Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, on June 26 sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide funding for education and training for Ukrainian health-care specialists so that they can provide continuing care and rehabilitation services for wounded Ukrainian soldiers.
KERHONKSON, N.Y. – Ukrainian Journalists of North America gathered at their fourth conference here at Soyuzivka Heritage Center on June 15-17 to focus on a theme driven by today’s news: “How to Fight Fake News.”
Topics discussed included Russian disinformation, political assassinations and Moscow’s behind-the-scenes machinations, as well as the status of Ukraine’s news media and the state of the Ukrainian language.
Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast is currently hosting several of the games of the World Cup soccer championship, but this Baltic exclave has recently attracted widespread attention for an entirely different reason. On June 18, Western media reported on Russia apparently undertaking ambitious renovation work on a military bunker located in the oblast, which is to be used to store nuclear weapons. This was corroborated by satellite images.
In May, the Russian Federation lost an important lawsuit lodged against it by “Everest Estate LLC and Others,” 18 Ukrainian companies that had held assets in Crimea prior to Moscow’s illegal annexation of this peninsula in early 2014. The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ruled that the Russian government had illegally expropriated hotels, apartments and other Crimean real estate owned by the claimants, and it awarded them approximately $159 million (plus legal costs) for this breach of the 1998 Russian-Ukrainian bilateral investment treaty (Iareporter.com, May 9; Investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org, accessed June 11). Even though Russia is fully expected to dispute the court decision and the claimants are unlikely to collect full restitution for a long time, the news of the PCA victory excited Ukrainian society. This was the first instance when victims of Russian aggression were able to legally secure some level of reimbursement for their losses incurred since 2014. In launching its military campaign against Ukraine four years ago, Russia violated not only fundamental norms and principles of international law, but also a slew of bilateral and multilateral agreements.
KYIV – The court’s verdict was unanimous and harsh: Ukraine’s top leaders, including President Petro Poroshenko, were guilty of war crimes. Their punishment: life imprisonment and the confiscation of their personal property.
But the sentence is highly unlikely to be seen – much less recognized – by most people and even less likely to be carried out, since this so-called court is a product of a Russia-backed separatist group in war-torn eastern Ukraine that calls itself the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). It’s known also by its Russian acronym, LNR, and is viewed as illegitimate by the vast majority of the world.
The following press statement was delivered by Heather Nauert State Department spokesperson, on June 18. The United States is deeply concerned by the growing number of individuals – now more than 150 – identified by credible human rights organizations as political and religious prisoners held by the government of the Russian Federation. We are especially concerned about the welfare of four Ukrainians unjustly imprisoned who are currently on hunger strike – Oleh Sentsov, Stanislav Klykh, Oleksandr Shumkov and Volodymyr Balukh. We are likewise troubled by the case of Oyub Titiyev, a human rights activist prosecuted on trumped-up drug charges in Chechnya, whose pre-trial detention was recently extended. In retaliation for peaceful religious practice, Russian authorities have detained Jehovah’s Witness Dennis Christensen without trial since May 2017.
PARSIPPANY, N.J. – The Ukrainian National Association’s Home Office staff on June 11 enjoyed a presentation by Petrusia G. Kotlar, D.C., on “Wellness and Nutrition as a Means to Healthy Longevity.” Dr. Kotlar’s topics included: ethnonutrition, seasonal eating, nutritional trends and alternatives to chemical medicine. A doctor of chiropractic and well-known alternative health care provider, Dr. Kotlar has been the featured speaker at several wellness seminars organized by the UNA as part of its outreach to its members and the community. Above, Dr, Kotlar (second from left) is seen with UNA officers and employees, and a visitor to the Home Office.
The morning of Thursday, June 28 (deadline day for this week’s issue) brought breaking news that Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin will meet in a one-on-one summit on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland. “The two leaders will discuss relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues,” the White House said in a statement. Their meeting will come after the NATO summit on July 11-12 in Brussels, which Mr. Trump will attend, as well as his visit to Britain on July 13. As pointed out by The Washington Post: “Both Trump and Putin have pursued the tête-à-tête in hopes of moving beyond friction over Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.”
Just before the summit details were announced, President Trump tweeted: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Thus, he continued to question the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia did indeed interfere in the 2016 presidential election. (The tweet also contained criticism of former FBI Director James Comey.) The Hill reported: “That message cast doubt on reassurances from [National Security Adviser John] Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who both said they were confident Trump would raise the issue of election meddling with Putin.”
There’s also some cause for worry as far as Ukraine is concerned.
Sixty-five years ago, on July 4-5, 1953, more than 2,000 people attended the formal dedication of Soyuzivka in Kerhonkson, N.Y., now known as Soyuzivka Heritage Center and owned by the Ukrainian National Foundation – an affiliated company of the Ukrainian National Association that performs charitable activities on its behalf. Members of the Ukrainian National Association and their guests arrived by charter buses from across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan and other states.
The formal dedication took place in the glade before the Main House – then called the “Hostynnytsia,” or Guest House. An invocation was led by the Very Rev. Volodimir Lotowycz of Jersey City, N.J., with responses sung by a specially organized UNA choir, including Home Office employees, led by Eugene Kruk. Dmytro Kapitula, former president of the UNA and longtime chairman of the Auditing Committee, led the flag-raising ceremony of the Ukrainian and American flags. (The Canadian flag has been included since that time.)
“Our Soyuzivka,” said Dmytro Halychyn, president of the UNA, “represents a fragment of enslaved Ukraine transplanted here upon the American soil.” Mr. Halychyn added that the establishment of Soyuzivka was but another of the great accomplishments of the UNA.