‘Murderers not found’ two years after journalist Sheremet killed in Kyiv

KYIV – Dozens of people have commemorated journalist Pavel Sheremet on July 20, the second anniversary of his killing in a car-bomb blast in central Kyiv. Journalists, rights defenders, civil society activists, U.S. diplomats, friends and colleagues placed flowers at a makeshift memorial at the busy intersection in Kyiv where Sheremet was killed. Many held black-and-red posters saying: “Pavel Sheremet. 20.07.2016. Murderers still not found.”

Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home, was leaving the apartment he shared with his partner, Olena Prytula, and driving to the studio where he hosted a morning radio program when an improvised explosive device planted under the Subaru the couple shared exploded at 7:45 a.m. on July 20, 2016.

Usyk makes history, first to unify four cruiserweight titles

Oleksandr Usyk made history on Saturday, July 21, when he became the undisputed cruiserweight world champion – retaining the WBC and WBO and picking up the WBA and IBF crusierweight titles – before a sellout crowd of 24,000 at Olympic Stadium in Moscow. His unanimous decision victory over Murat Gassiev in the World Boxing Super Series final earned Usyk the Muhammad Ali Trophy for the single-elimination tournament that began last September. Usyk, the No. 1 seed in the eight-man field became the first fighter in cruiserweight history to unify all four world title belts. Usyk was also awarded the honorary cruiserweight title by The Ring magazine.

The Crimea Declaration

In case anyone was wondering – due to the mixed messages being sent out by the Trump administration – what the U.S. stand really is on Russia’s occupation of Crimea, the answer came on July 25 in the form of a statement titled “Crimea Declaration.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thus announced a formal policy reaffirming U.S. rejection of “Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea.” At the same time, he underscored that the U.S. would “maintain this policy until Ukraine’s territorial integrity is restored.” He also called on Russia “to respect the principles to which it has long claimed to adhere and to end its occupation of Crimea.”

August 2, 2015

Three years ago, on August 2, 2015, the second World Congress of the Crimean Tatar People ended in Ankara, Turkey. During the congress, and in the face of the Russian invasion of Crimea, the Tatars demonstrated their resolve, why they are a real asset for Ukraine, and why its movement, which the Kremlin has tried so hard to disrupt, represents a large and growing problem for Moscow, noted Paul Goble in his analysis. Kyiv commentator Andrey Strelets said on Novy Region-2 that the latest meeting showed that the Crimean Tatars would increase activity in pushing their arguments to resonate internationally. 

The first congress of Crimean Tatars took place in 2009, but was unable to ratify its charter until the latest meeting in 2015, creating the World Congress of Crimean Tatars. The body is tasked with promoting at the international level the rights, powers and aspirations of the national Qurultay and national Mejlis, both of which have faced difficulties in working under a Russian occupation of the Crimean Tatar homeland but who are the unique articulators of the position of the Crimean Tatar people. Notably, the congress adopted a declaration stating that the “the right to self-determination belongs to the indigenous Crimean Tatar people.” Crimea must be freed as soon as possible from the Russian occupation, it must be returned to Ukraine, and the Crimean Tatars have the right to decide their own fate, the congress declared.

Ukraine was the elephant in the room at U.S.-Russia meeting in Helsinki

Many Ukrainian commentators have suggested that the “laconic” way in which Vladimir Putin referred to the Crimean issue and the failure of Donald Trump to say anything at all about Ukraine at the joint press conference in Helsinki means that, in the words of one, “Ukraine was not in the epicenter” of their talks, including their one-on-one sessions. Such a conclusion represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what happened because Mr. Trump’s failure to raise the issue given the certainty that Mr. Putin would react badly means that the U.S. leader has deferred to his Russian counterpart by ignoring Moscow’s greatest current crime and given Mr. Putin a victory he doesn’t deserve and must not be allowed to retain. By not raising Ukraine in fact, Mr. Trump in fact made it clear that he, personally at least, wants to overlook Russian aggression there in the name of some grand bargain elsewhere. Mr. Putin could not be more pleased, because that means Mr. Trump implicitly raised Ukraine by not talking about it. 

After Neville Chamberlain made his concessions to Hitler at Munich, Winston Churchill observed in the House of Commons that he had to mention the most horrible thing first. England, he said, “had suffered a defeat without a war” by failing to oppose the Nazi dictator and believing that deals with him were possible.

Kremlin site drops Putin’s admission that Moscow organized Crimean referendum

Donald Trump’s correction of the record of his remarks in Helsinki about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections has attracted a great deal of attention, much of it skeptical. But, so far, there has been less attention to a similar “correction” by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. In his remarks at the joint press conference in Helsinki, the Kremlin leader said in response to a question about Crimea, “President Trump’s position is well-known, and he maintains it. He speaks about the illegality of joining Crimea to the Russian Federation” (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/58017). 

 “We have a different point of view. We consider that we conducted the referendum in strict correspondence with international law and the U.N. Charter.

With Trump on his side, Putin admits Russia staged the Crimean ‘referendum’

It is devastating that the only positive thing to be said about the Helsinki summit on July 16 is that U.S. President Donald Trump did not, as feared, recognize Crimea as Russian. At least, not publicly. Mr. Trump was unable or unwilling to mention even one of the grave crimes which the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed over recent years. 

In fact, according to Mr. Trump, the low in U.S.-Russian relations was not because of its interference in the U.S. presidential elections, as confirmed by all U.S. intelligence services, Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea and military aggression against Ukraine, the downing by a Russian Buk missile of Malaysian airliner MH17, the use of radioactive polonium and nerve gas against perceived enemies on British territory, war crimes in Syria and much more. No, it was because, Mr. Trump tweeted, of “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” 

It is for U.S. citizens to consider whether their president should reject U.S. intelligence in favor of a former KGB agent’s assurances. They might also wonder how, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the downing of MH17, Mr. Trump should have been waxing effusive about a new dawn in U.S.-Russia relations and totally silent about the murder of 298 passengers.

2014 was the time to stop Russia

Dear Editor:

In its letter to President Donald Trump, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America notes: “In 2014 the United States reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders with the passage of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. …”

The United States reaffirmed its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty? Wasn’t it 2014 when Russia seized Crimea? Wasn’t it 2014 when Barack Obama was president that Russia invaded Crimea? Wasn’t it 2014 when Mr. Obama stated that NATO couldn’t protect Ukraine because Ukraine was not a member of NATO?

Trump and Putin, the World Cup and Oleh Sentsov

“Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?” by Will Hurd (R-Texas), The New York Times, July 19 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/opinion/trump-russia-putin-republican-congress.html)

… Somehow many Americans have forgotten that Russia is our adversary, not our ally, and the reasons for today’s tensions go back much farther than the 2016 election. For more than a decade, Russia has meddled in elections around the world, supported brutal dictators and invaded sovereign nations — all to the detriment of United States interests. Mitt Romney had it right in 2012 when he told President Barack Obama that Russia was “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

…Russia is an adversary not just of the United States but of freedom-loving people everywhere.

NEWSBRIEFS

U.S. announces $200 M in security aid

The United States will provide $200 million in additional security funding to Ukraine. The U.S. Defense Department on July 20 announced it will provide the funding for “training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces.” The new funding will “support ongoing training programs and operational needs,” the statement said. The United States has provided a total of more than $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, when neighboring Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and fomented a separatist conflict in parts of eastern Ukraine. More than 10,300 people have been killed since April 2014 in the conflict. Although Moscow denies interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in November 2016 determined the conflict to be “an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.” (RFE/RL)

Portman praises release of funds

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised the Department of Defense’s release of $200 million in security assistance to fund additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces.