NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Hartford-based Yevshan Ukrainian Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Alexander Kuzma performed a concert of Ukrainian Christmas and New Year’s carols in the main hall of the Knights of Columbus Museum in downtown New Haven, Conn., on Saturday, January 25. Despite rainy and blustery weather, the afternoon concert drew a large and enthusiastic crowd from across southern Connecticut, and from as far away as Stamford, Conn., Boston and Rhode Island.
The ensemble sang a diverse array of seasonal favorites including Stanislav Liudkevych’s charming arrangement of “Vo Vyfleyemi” and a rousing suite of carols by Kyrylo Stetsenko beginning with “Dnes Poyushche” (“Today we sing of our Newborn King”), as well as several rarely heard works including Leontovych’s “Oi Hordopyshnyi Pan Hospodariu” (“Oh, proud master of this house”).
WILMINGTON, Del. – Catherine Husak celebrated her 100th birthday in Wilmington, Del., on Sunday, February 16. The pastor of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Rev. Volodymyr Klanichka, and the president of Ukrainian National Women’s League of America Branch 54, Marika Hawrysczuk, hosted a gathering of parishioners in Mrs. Husak’s honor after the 9 a.m. liturgy. Coffee and cake were served. Ms. Hawrysczuk honored Mrs. Husak, a former president of UNWLA Branch 54, with a special flower arrangement. Father Klanichka noted that Mrs. Husak is the oldest parishioner at St. Nicholas. Mrs. Husak is a long-time member of Ukrainian National Association Branch 173.
NORTH PORT, Fla. – On February 15, Branch 56 of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) held a dance at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church parish hall in North Port, Fla.
The gala is an annual fund-raiser for the various causes supported by Branch 56, such as wounded warriors and orphans in Ukraine, seniors and the UNWLA Scholarship Fund.
This year’s event, which was themed “We Love Ukraine,” invited guests to don blue and gold evening attire. A lovely buffet was prepared and served by branch members, and music was provided by the Syzonenko Brothers.
Shakhtar Donetsk finished in third place in Group C after its 0-3 loss to Atalanta (Italy) on December 10 in Kharkiv as part of the UEFA Champions League. After six matches played, Shakhtar, with six points and is relegated to the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. It won 2-1 against Benfica (Portugal) in the Round of 32 of its first-leg match on February 20. The second-leg is set for February 27. The draw for the Round of 16 will be made on February 28. In Group C, Manchester City advanced to the round of 16 in first place (14 points), followed by Atalanta with seven, and in fourth place, Dinamo Zagreb (five points) was eliminated.
SHAMOKIN, Pa. – Bringing the Ukrainian National Association’s 125th anniversary Year to a close, a commemorative event was held on February 9 in the city of Shamokin, Pa., the birthplace of the UNA.
A hierarchical divine liturgy, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia, was held at Transfiguration of the Lord Ukrainian Catholic Church. Assisting in the liturgy was the church’s pastor, the Rev. Mykola Ivanov. Singing the responses in the Ukrainian language during the liturgy were members of the Dzvin Ukrainian Male Choir from Philadelphia. Joining them with responses in the English language was the Kazka Ukrainian Folk Ensemble. Tom Hasupa, cantor at Transfiguration Church, provided the scripture reading.
KYIV – Ukrainian officials opened a memorial at Kyiv Boryspil International Airport on February 17, marking the traditional 40th day of mourning after the tragedy of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752). The monument commemorates the 176 victims of the Ukrainian passenger jet that was shot down by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Tehran on January 8.
The five-country investigation – involving Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan and the United Kingdom – of the shootdown is still in progress, with some difficulty regarding cooperation by Iran.
KYIV – During the last week or so, talk of peace at the annual high-level Munich Security Conference was deafened by the sound of intensified gunfire from Russian forces in the Donbas. The flare-up in the fighting highlighted once again the gulf between the search for peace proclaimed by Ukraine’s Zelenskyy administration and the realities on the ground reflecting Moscow’s enduring intransigence.
On the eve of the Munich forum, held on February 14-15, there were hopes in some quarters that it would reinforce the beginnings of a new dialogue between Kyiv and Moscow created in Paris in December 2019 at the Normandy Four format summit. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to have the tactical advantage as his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was not attending. Evidently, the Ukrainian leader hoped to make use of this major international event to promote Ukraine’s cause and interests and to counter its image as a hopelessly corrupt state generated most recently within the context of U.S. political infighting.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers was killed and four were wounded in clashes that occurred early on February 18 near the town of Zolote in the Luhansk region. The ministry accused the Russian-backed separatists of violating ceasefire agreements by shelling Ukrainian positions on the line of contact. Meanwhile, the leader of the militants in the Luhansk region, Yakov Osadchy, said four separatist fighters were killed and four were wounded in the clashes, which he said started when a group of Ukrainian soldiers tried to enter separatist-controlled territory but entered a minefield. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv reacted to the events, calling on Moscow to fulfill its obligations outlined in earlier peace agreements. The 2015 Minsk agreement is a peace plan that was brokered by France and Germany in the Belarussian capital and set a series of ceasefires in eastern Ukraine that have generally failed to hold. Known as the Normandy format, the latest four-way talks between Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany were held in Paris in December.
Kyiv and Moscow finalized a bilateral deal to transport Russian natural gas to Europe through Ukrainian territory (See Part I in Eurasia Daily Monitor, January 22). Although the new five-year agreement on gas transit signed on December 30, 2019, represented a compromise for both countries, it proved an especially difficult and painful decision for Russia.
During the last five years, the Kremlin has been seeking to eliminate Russia’s dependency on the Ukrainian gas transit corridor. Two major Russian pipeline projects, the 55-billion-cubic-meter (bcm) Nord Stream 2 and the 15.75 bcm TurkStream (with a second 15.75 bcm going to Turkey), were supposed to be launched by the end of 2019, before the expiration of the previous 10-year transit contract with Kyiv. Together, these projects – two powerful pipelines that bypass Ukrainian territory to the north and south, respectively – aim to entirely remove the need to transport gas via Ukraine, with whom Russia has tense political relations (the two sides are de facto at war). But even with the launch of TurkStream on January 9, Russia is no closer to its goal of eliminating its reliance on the Ukrainian corridor (see EDM, January 16).
The proceedings of the annual Munich Security Conference always attract keen attention in Moscow, and the weekend of February 14-16 was no exception. The discussions at this high-level forum are indeed highly consequential most years, but Russian interest continues to be stimulated by reflections on Vladimir Putin’s speech at the 2007 conference, which he likely to this day sees as his stellar moment on the world stage. In retrospect, the Kremlin leader’s old complaints about insufficient attention in the West to Russia’s interests look rather banal; but at least before the August 2008 Russian-Georgian War, there had been a foundation of trust, which Moscow has since demolished. Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov used the Munich conference to once more try to sell Mr. Putin’s initiative on staging a summit of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, but U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo showed scant interest.