KYIV – Ukraine celebrated the 29th anniversary of the re-establishment of its independence on August 24 with an address to the nation by the president, festive events on St. Sophia Square and the unofficial March of Defenders of Ukraine.
As Ukraine geared up for the festivities, the COVID-19 situation in the country was worsening. The number of coronavirus cases had been setting records almost every day, and Ukraine ranked third in Europe in terms of the number of newly infected people. Nonetheless, the main difference between the 2020 celebrations and previous years’ Independence Days was the occasional mask regime, which is impossible to enforce in large crowds.
Below is the full text of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech on the occasion of Ukraine’s Independence Day, August 24. The text was posted on the official website of the president of Ukraine (https://www.president.gov.ua/).
Fellow citizens of Ukraine!
A year ago, I talked about how every morning of mine starts with a text message from the General Staff of Ukraine. SMS about the number of wounded and dead over the past day on the frontline. The numbers may be different, but only one message makes the morning good: zero wounded, zero dead.
August 22, just two days before Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations, the statue “Bitter Memory of Childhood” at the Holodomor memorial complex in Kyiv was desecrated. The statue of a young starving girl holding several stalks of grain is an internationally recognized symbol for one of the most tragic pages in Ukraine’s history: the genocidal famine engineered by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that killed millions of people on Ukrainian territory.
The general director of the National Museum of the Holodomor Genocide, Olesia Stasiuk, was quoted by the BBC as saying that sometime during the might of August 21-22, three unknown persons torn the statue off its pedestal. “Thank God, the statue itself was not damaged, because they could not lift it, it was too heavy.”
Open-source evidence makes it possible to trace the steps that led Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, to quasi-recognize the Donetsk and Luhansk “armed formations” in a signed agreement at the political level (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 29, 30, August 5). While the agreement’s full text has been released by all signatory parties, the page reserved for the signatures has only been revealed by the Luhansk authorities (Lug-info.com, July 22). The scanned page shows the names of the Russian and Ukrainian plenipotentiaries, Boris Gryzlov and Leonid Kuchma; the Donetsk and Luhansk “plenipotentiaries,” Natalya Nikonorova and Vladislav Deynego (self-styled “foreign affairs ministers”); and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chairmanship’s representative, Heidi Grau.
United States Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv, assured that the United States supports the Ukrainian government’s efforts to implement reforms. “In a meeting with Prime Minister Shmyhal, Deputy Secretary Biegun reiterated U.S. support for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to implement reforms that strengthen its democratic institutions, improve the investment climate and ensure Ukraine can fulfill its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the Embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page on August 27. It also said that the United States is deeply committed to reinforcing Ukraine’s continued progress on reforms to further integrate into Europe, including via cooperation with international partners to strengthen its judicial, regulatory and financial institutions.
The weather in July brought rain to Crimea – but still not enough to save the peninsula from its severe multi-year drought. That same month, the volume of freshwater in Crimea’s reservoirs decreased by almost 8.5 million cubic meters. By August, the amount of reservoir water left totaled around 75 million cubic meters, compared to 164 million last year (Crimea.kp.ru, August 3).
Crimea’s water problem is not a novelty. Due to relatively low annual average precipitation levels and a poor river network, chronic freshwater shortages have been an acute predicament for centuries. The first attempt to resolve this problem came after the drought of 1833, when Finnish-born Russian botanist Christian Steven proposed building a canal from the Dnipro River to Crimea. The idea only came to fruition nearly 130 years later.
“… the burden of maintaining Crimea, e.g., its freshwater sources, and power, as well as sustaining Russia’s stagnant economy amidst rising domestic disaffection grows every day. Moreover, NATO is more and more probing the Black Sea and has upgraded its relationship with Ukraine, offering it enhanced strategic partnership and U.S. aid is again coming.
“Therefore, it is no surprise that Ukrainian sources report that the Crimea situation is developing towards the capture of Ukraine territories that give access to water from the Dnieper [sic] River. Russia has increased the military contingent in and around Crimea to about a reported 80,000 troops and concentrated its engineering units in the north of the Crimea. They built a water supply canal to Dzhankoi and a water-pumping station there. It is therefore entirely possible that an operation will soon be launched to capture freshwater from Ukraine in order to service Crimea and make Ukraine rather than Russia pay for it. Russia actually conducted Command Post Exercises (CPX) to capture Tavriisk (a small town where the canal starts from the Dnieper).
With deep shock, family, friends and colleagues of Marta Kolomayets, former Kyiv correspondent and Kyiv Bureau chief of The Ukrainian Weekly, received news of her passing on Sunday, August 16, in her home near Kyiv. On behalf of the Ukrainian National Association’s General Assembly and the thousands of UNA members who waited each week to read Marta’s reports and columns, allow me to express our condolences to the many who loved Marta dearly.
I write here not only as a member of the UNA General Assembly, but also as a colleague of Marta. Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Marta and I crossed paths in Washington, Rome and New York City, and worked side-by-side with journalists in Ukraine. We were together during the 1988 Millennium of Ukrainian Christianity events in Rome – I as a member of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s media team organized by Bishop Basil Losten and Sonya (Hlutkowsky) Soutus, Marta as a correspondent for The Ukrainian Weekly. It was then that I first witnessed both Marta’s strength of character and her skills as an intrepid reporter.
As Ukraine celebrates its Independence Day – or more precisely the 29th anniversary of the re-establishment of its independence – it’s appropriate to take some time to assess the current situation in our ancestral homeland.
In the days leading up to the national holiday, there were several notable developments. The Kyiv City Administration raised the country’s largest blue-and-yellow national flag at a new memorial in the city; the occasion was Ukrainian National Flag Day, which is celebrated on August 23. Also before Ukraine’s Independence Day, a human chain of solidarity with protesters in Belarus stretched from the Embassy of Belarus to Independence Square (the Maidan). It was yet another visible sign of the Ukrainian people’s support for their Belarusian neighbors and their belief in a better future.
Sixty years ago, on August 31, 1960, Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.) submitted to the Congressional Record a statement on House Joint Resolution 311 that cleared the way for the erection of the Taras Shevchenko monument in Washington.
The resolution was brought up for the third reading by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas), and was passed by the Senate on August 31.
Sen. Javits’ statement read: “More than 100 years ago Taras Shevchenko hailed the first President of the United States George Washington, and the new Republic, hoping for the day when Ukraine will join the family of free nations. Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) was without a doubt one of the foremost Ukrainians of the modern period. His poetry has inspired the men and women of his period and later times with a renewed love of freedom and a consciousness of their identity and traditions as Ukrainians.