Hungarian consulate in Ukraine caught granting citizenship to Ukrainians

KYIV – A diplomatic confrontation is brewing with Hungary after hidden-video footage emerged that shows a group of Ukrainians taking an oath of loyalty during a citizenship swearing-in ceremony inside the Hungarian Consulate in the Zakarpattia Oblast border town of Berehove. 

After the induction, a Hungarian diplomat told the group to hide their new citizenship status from the Ukrainian authorities while toasting them with champagne, according to the video posted on YouTube on September 19. 

Patriarch Filaret speaks about effort to unite Ukraine’s Orthodox Churches

WASHINGTON – Patriarch Filaret, who heads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), recently visited the U.S. capital and a few other American cities, in his search for support of his efforts to unite all Ukrainian Orthodox believers into one Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

This unification, he assured a large gathering at the Atlantic Council on September 19, will not only resolve this unnecessary continuing split within the Church, but may also play a major role in stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continuing efforts to return Ukraine to the realm of the “Russian empire.”

Plaque honoring Raphael Lemkin is unveiled at Ukrainian Institute of America

NEW YORK – Back on September 20, 1953, at the Manhattan Center on West 34th Street, an overflow crowd of 3,000 cheered an impassioned speech by Dr. Raphael Lemkin that detailed the Holodomor of 1932-1933. He called it a calculated Soviet attempt to destroy Ukrainian identity and the entire Ukrainian nation, adding this was not simply a horrendous mass murder, but a genocide – part of the Soviets’ larger plan to get rid of the “Ukrainian problem.” A report on his speech made the front page in The Ukrainian Weekly. (The Weekly’s editorial from September 16 of this year analyzed the significance and resonance of this event.) 

Putin and Merkel discuss Nord Stream, Ukraine and Syria in a changing strategic context

German Chancellor Angela Merkel uncharacteristically interrupted her summer vacation to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 18 at Meseberg Castle, near Berlin. It was the second Merkel-Putin meeting within three months. Their meeting in Sochi last May triggered a flurry of bilateral German-Russian high-level discussions, which continue to this day. This development reflects a growing, if chimerical, belief within German government and business circles that Germany should seek a rapprochement with Russia in response to the United States’ policies under the Donald Trump administration. The overall assumption is that Russia’s cooperation is indispensable to achieving some of Germany’s main policy objectives: ending the war in Syria (a generator of mass migrations to Europe, with disruptive effects inside Germany), bringing a political solution to “the Ukraine crisis” (Russia’s aggression there being a generator of divisive economic sanctions in Europe), and Russian long-term guaranteed energy deliveries to Germany.

Autocephaly for Ukraine about more than religion

The ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople is moving to grant the Ukrainian Orthodox Church autocephaly, that is, the status of a Church with its own canonical territory and able to choose its own hierarchs. This has been a slow-moving process until recent weeks, when Constantinople Patriarch Bartholemew I named two exarchs from North America to oversee this effort in Ukraine itself. 

As a result, most attention has heretofore been devoted to the religious consequences of this move. But now that Ukrainian autocephaly appears imminent, it is becoming increasingly clear that the conferring of this status is about far more than religion. Moreover, it will not be a single event but rather a longer string of developments that have far-reaching social, political and even security consequences for all involved. For Ukraine, achieving autocephaly is a great victory – both religious and political (, September 10).

State Department on religious freedom in Ukraine

The following press statement was issued by the U.S. State Department’s press spokesperson Heather Nauert on September 25. It was titled “Religious Freedom in Ukraine.”

The United States strongly supports religious freedom, including the freedom of members of groups to govern their religion according to their beliefs and practice their faiths freely without government interference. The United States respects the ability of Ukraine’s Orthodox religious leaders and followers to pursue autocephaly according to their beliefs. We respect the Ecumenical Patriarch as a voice of religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue. The United States maintains unwavering support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Portman receives Order of St. Volodymyr from Ukrainian Orthodox Patriarch Filaret

WASHINGTON – 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, received the Order of St. Volodymyr medal from Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate. The award was given to Sen. Portman in recognition of his leadership and continuous support of Ukraine. “I’m deeply honored to receive this award from Ukrainian Patriarch Filaret on behalf of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle to secure a democratic, prosperous and independent future for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” said Sen. Portman.

Quotable notes

“If one year ago somebody had said that we would come so close to the Tomos, everyone would have said what I heard from the majority of the hierarchs: Mr. President, you are a naive person… this is not possible. My answer was: Friends, there will be nothing without God’s help. But I believe that Ukraine has gained this help. …

“People criticize me, telling that the Church in a true state should be separated from the state.

President calls on U.N. to deploy peacekeeping mission in the Donbas

UNITED NATIONS – President Petro Poroshenko is confident that a United Nations-mandated multinational peacekeeping operation whose goal is to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity could be a decisive factor in ending the suffering of the Ukrainian people. 

That was his message on September 26 at the general debate of the high-level Action for Peacekeeping meeting held during the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly.  “It is evident that the world has not become a safer place in the 21st century. We still witness wars and aggression, even on the European continent. As we speak, the foreign military aggression against Ukraine, in violation of the U.N. Charter and contrary to the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council, rages on,” the Head of State noted. Mr. Poroshenko emphasized: “The temporary occupation of parts of Ukraine’s territory continues to cause suffering of the Ukrainian people and undermine regional and international peace and security.”

He noted that, according to a conservative estimate by the U.N., the number of conflict-related casualties in Ukraine currently stands at over 35,000, including more than 10,000 people killed and almost 25,000 injured.

Ukrainian warships break Russian de-facto blockade in Azov Sea to create naval base

Ukraine is going to create a naval base in the Sea of Azov amid tensions with Russia in the region. On September 23 the Ukrainian Navy deployed two naval auxiliary vessels to the Sea of Azov. The event could have been routine if only the Kerch Strait had not been occupied by Russia since spring 2014 and the Kerch Strait Bridge had not been completed in early 2018. Since May of this year, Russia has been illegally detaining and inspecting ships passing between the Black and Azov seas.

The passage of the Ukrainian ships became a headache for Russia since it claims the adjacent waters in occupied Crimea are Russian, while the rest of the world considers them Ukrainian.

The two ships examined how far Russia will go. Russia chose to do nothing.