OSCE mandate further marred by alleged Russian spy scandal

KYIV – The mandate of the 57-state international body charged with monitoring a truce in the Donbas war may have been further compromised after allegations emerged that sensitive information about the Ukraine mission was passed to Russian intelligence. 

Hundreds of internal documents of the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) dating to autumn 2016 were handed over to Russia’s Federal Security Service, according to a July 16 report aired by German channel ARD. 

International development minister of Canada visits Ukraine’s war-torn east

OTTAWA – Since becoming Canada’s minister of international development in 2015, Marie-Claude Bibeau has led missions to 30 countries, but had never visited Ukraine until this month when she spent five days, from July 18 to 23, mainly in the country’s war-torn eastern region. 

Ms. Bibeau, who before entering politics three years ago worked for the Canadian International Development Agency that was folded into Canada’s Foreign Ministry in 2013, has also never spent as much time in a country as minister as she did in Ukraine.

U.S. reaffirms refusal to recognize Russia’s ‘attempted annexation’ of Crimea

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a press statement released on July 25, reiterated that the U.S. “rejects Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and pledges to maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.” Furthermore, he called on Russia “to end its occupation of Crimea.”

The full text of the statement, titled “Crimea Declaration,” follows. Russia, through its 2014 invasion of Ukraine and its attempted annexation of Crimea, sought to undermine a bedrock international principle shared by democratic states: that no country can change the borders of another by force. The states of the world, including Russia, agreed to this principle in the United Nations Charter, pledging to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. This fundamental principle – which was reaffirmed in the Helsinki Final Act – constitutes one of the foundations upon which our shared security and safety rests. As we did in the Welles Declaration in 1940, the United States reaffirms as policy its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force in contravention of international law.

Responses in Kyiv to the Trump-Putin summit

KYIV – With the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki behind us, there was a general sense of relief in the air in Kyiv that has now given way to renewed anxieties as additional details fueling speculation have emerged. While the U.S. president’s attempt to publicly ingratiate himself with Moscow’s strongman, even by running down U.S. intelligence, and the country’s media and justice system, did not pass unnoticed and shocked many here, the initial impression that there was no sell-out of Ukraine is what mattered. The general response was summed up by one of Ukraine’s leading journalists, Vitaly Portnikov, in his commentary for Espreso TV. The summit produced a favorable result for Ukraine because the outcome could have been a lot worse. Whatever the fears, clearly Ukraine was not uppermost in the U.S. president’s mind and hardly figured during the joint press conference given by the two leaders.

U.S. ‘not considering’ Putin proposal for referendum in Ukraine’s east

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump says it is “not considering supporting” a proposal made by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his summit with Mr. Trump to hold a referendum in regions of eastern Ukraine where an armed conflict is being waged against the Ukrainian government. U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said on July 20 that organizing a “so-called referendum” would have “no legitimacy.” 

Shortly after the White House rejected conducting a referendum in eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon announced that it is providing an additional $200 million in security assistance to Ukraine to help it build its “defensive capacity.”

Earlier the same day, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said Messrs. Trump and Putin discussed “concrete proposals” for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine during the summit in Helsinki on July 16. Mr. Antonov spoke a day after Bloomberg quoted sources as saying that Mr. Putin told Russian diplomats he had proposed to Mr. Trump that a referendum be held in the region, where Russia-backed separatists hold parts of two oblasts. “This issue was discussed,” the ambassador said, apparently referring to the conflict itself and not a proposal for a referendum.

Undisclosed agenda of Helsinki summit leads to speculation, worries in some quarters

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin seem to have established a good rapport during their summit in Helsinki on July 16. The Russian media enthusiastically quoted Mr. Trump: “We got along well, which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!” (Interfax, July 18). Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov described the summit as “splendid, better than super” (Militarynews.ru, July 16). 

But despite all this good personal chemistry, the summit on its face produced almost nothing concrete – other than a media mega-scandal regarding widespread perceptions of Mr. Trump too actively echoing Mr. Putin’s rhetoric at the joint presser and seemingly dismissing the issue of Russia’s intervention in U.S. elections. And though the two presidents spent over two hours together talking one-on-one (except for their two translators), the content of their discussion has been kept private, leading to questions about what was actually said by either side and what “big results” might come of it.

Did Putin overplay his hand in Helsinki?

The summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16 continues to generate strong international resonance, despite apparently producing few if any tangible results. In Washington, politicians and experts are at odds about interpreting Mr. Trump’s bonhomie with Mr. Putin shown at this long-anticipated rendezvous, particularly following the disagreeable North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels; but in Moscow, the opinion-makers are exuberant (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 17). 

The Russian leader seemingly believes that the initial success in making the desired summit happen was multiplied by his outsmarting and outperforming of Mr. Trump during their 130-minute face-to-face; and he is now looking to collect the fruits from this apparent victory (Kommersant, July 18). However, such triumphalism both devalues and undermines the breakthrough he presumes to achieve in bilateral relations with the United States. Mr. Putin could have offered some symbolic concessions in Helsinki but did not, relying instead on his skill at handling the mercurial interlocutor and on careful preparations for the unstructured conversation. During the summit talks, he apparently put several suggestions on the table, and now Russian officials have been publicly interpreting them as attained agreements – much to the consternation of the U.S. political establishment (RIA Novosti, July 20).

Soyuzivka’s 12th Ukrainian Cultural Festival celebrates global Ukrainian community

KERHONKSON, N.Y. – More than mere merrymaking, Soyuzivka’s 12th annual Ukrainian Cultural Festival was above all, a celebration of the global Ukrainian family. At the same time, this festival not only illustrated changes already in place at Soyuzivka, but also pointed to bigger transformations just around the corner for all our communities. Thousands of guests from many corners of the world, young and old, flocked to the Ukrainian National Foundation’s (UNF) mountain eyrie in the airy heights of the Shawangunk Ridge on July 13-15. In addition to sharing ethnic pride, participants were united by deep concern over issues affecting all Ukrainians: their war-torn homeland, help for students and orphans, and finding ways to popularize their rich culture. When two star performers could not appear due to visa issues, the festival’s tireless artistic administrator Roma Lisovich (who is also the UNF’s treasurer) arranged to fly in fiery singer Anastasia Prykhodko.

Ukraine Caucus co-chairs condemn Trump’s Helsinki meeting with Putin

WASHINGTON – Congressional Ukraine Caucus chairs, Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) issued a joint statement after President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. The full text of their statement follows. As co-chairs of the bipartisan Ukraine Caucus, we are deeply troubled by the president’s subservient behavior towards President Putin. The United States must never tolerate actions that seek to weaken democratic institutions in the U.S. and our allies abroad.