Ukrainians choose local leaders and deputies in historic elections

KYIV – On October 25, local elections were held nationwide in Ukraine, except in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The elections were held on a new administrative-territorial basis, as new united territorial communities have been created in connection with decentralization reform.

“The government has changed the outdated division into raions, which was adopted in the first half of the last century. It transferred more power to the communities, forming almost 1,500 united territorial communities,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal commented after voting in Lviv. “For the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, people on the ground will manage funds independently and decide where to spend resources. This is a key element of the decentralization reform,” he noted.

Ukrainian National Guardsman Markiv appeals his conviction by Italian court

KYIV – When Ukrainian National Guardsman Vitaliy Markiv was given a 24-year prison sentence by a court in northern Italy on July 12, 2019, for his role in the deaths of an Italian photojournalist and his Russian interpreter, and wounding a French journalist, his mother said it was the “most painful moment of her life.”

Oksana Maksymchuk told RFE/RL in June that she was convinced he would be acquitted “because there wasn’t any proof” of his guilt and that the verdict came “as a shock to us… we had always remained optimistic.”

Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church consecrated in Palatine

PALATINE, Ill. – A long-anticipated day for parishioners of Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church in Palatine, Ill., came on October 10, when the parish’s new church and shrine was consecrated by Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk.

 In addition to being a church, it is also designated as the Eparchial Shrine of the New Martyrs of Ukraine for the Chicago-based St .Nicholas Eparchy.

“The late Bishop Richard Seminack told us that he wanted our parish to be an eparchial shrine. We hope to have many spiritual events and pilgrimages planned. Аs engraved on the cornerstones blessed by Patriarch Sviatoslav, it is designated as ‘a house of prayer for all nations,’ ” said Father Mykhailo Kuzma.

U.S. Congressional Ukraine Caucus worried Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill could be dropped

WASHINGTON – Members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus are concerned a U.S. bill to expand sanctions on a Russian natural-gas pipeline to Europe could be dropped from the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The bill, known as the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act (PEESCA), would widen the scope of sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany to include any individual or entity providing insurance or welding services for the project.

U.S. charges GRU officers with cybercrimes

The following statement was issued by U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on October 19.

The criminal charges the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced today against six officers of the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate’s (GRU) Military Unit 74455 highlight once again Russia’s continuing disruptive, destructive and destabilizing activities in cyberspace.

NEWSBRIEFS

Critical blow to anti-corruption agency

Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has stripped the country’s anti-corruption agency of some of its critical powers. The high court’s ruling published on October 28 declared it unconstitutional to hold officials criminally liable for intentionally providing false information on asset declarations. It also struck down several powers of the National Agency for Preventing Corruption (NAZK). The court decision may impact lending from the International Monetary Fund and threaten visa liberalization with the European Union. Anti-corruption campaigners said the ruling undermines Ukraine’s battle against graft. “The decision of the Constitutional Court will lead to a significant rollback in Ukraine’s anti-corruption reform,” watchdog Transparency International Ukraine’s Executive Director Andrii Borovyk said in a statement. “These legislative provisions were the cornerstones of the anti-corruption system, while corruption has been recognized as one of the threats to the national security.”

The Donbas without water: The ecology of the east Ukrainian frontline

The conflict between Ukraine and combined Russian-separatist forces in the Donbas (a region encompassing the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts), which erupted in 2014, has damaged one of the largest water delivery systems in Europe’s east. Water shortages and poor water quality are worsening an already difficult humanitarian, socio-economic and political situation in a war-torn area of Ukraine abutting the frontline territories. Constant shelling threatens access to safe water and sanitation for more than 3.9 million people (including 500,000 children) in eastern Ukraine. Every fourth resident near the contact line lacks a reliable source of drinking water. On September 16, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the resolution “On the appeal to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to take measures to provide the population of Donetsk region with an uninterrupted water supply” (Rada.gov.ua, September 22). But due to the difficult economic situation in the country, it is not quite clear how effective such legislation can be considering the massive financing it would require.

Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus recognizes OCU, irking Moscow and its allies

PARSIPPANY, N.J. – During a divine liturgy on October 24 at the Chrysoroyatissa (Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate) Monastery in Pathos, Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, commemorated Metropolitan Epifaniy, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The move officially recognizes the autocephaly of the OCU. The Orthodox Church of Cyprus thus joins the Orthodox Church of Greece, the Patriarchate of Alexandria and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its official recognition of the autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Winners of 2020 HREC Educator Award for Holodomor lesson plans are announced

TORONTO – HREC Education, of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC), a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, announced that its national panel of education adjudicators has selected the winners of this year’s HREC Educator Award for Holodomor Lesson Plan Development. Presented annually to recognize outstanding educators in the field of Holodomor teaching, the award fosters excellence in the development of innovative, creative and interactive lessons for grades K-12 that develop students’ critical thinking skills while addressing the topic of the genocide in Ukraine in the early 1930s.

Educational webinars focus on the Holodomor

WASHINGTON – The National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) partnered with the U.S. Committee for Ukrainian Holodomor-Genocide Awareness to host a national webinar on September 17 on the Ukrainian Holodomor titled “Stalin’s Cover-Up of the Ukrainian Famine Genocide, 1932-1933: The Original Fake News.”

Speakers in the webinar were Doris Duzyj of Michigan, Dr. Christopher Mauriello of Massachusetts and Michael Sawkiw Jr. of Washington.

The webinar began with a PowerPoint presentation by Ms. Duzyj explaining the vulnerability of Ukraine’s geographic location, its history of dominance by numerous empires and subsequent suffering, and persecution under Stalin’s regime. Statistical data about population losses was reviewed from the Harvard MAPA project.