A woman ordering a beverage at a coffee stand in Kyiv

Ukrainians now legally entitled to service in Ukrainian

KYIV – Starting on January 16, a provision in Ukraine’s language law went into force that stipulates all public service providers must first address their customers in Ukrainian and they must provide information for customers while browsing or shopping in the state language.

Aside from commercial transactions, the provision also applies to educational, medical and social services, the office of the language ombudsman’s website says. At the customer’s request, service may be provided in another language, such as Russian or English, if it is mutually acceptable to both parties.

Ukrainian soldier searching for dead bodies at Donetsk airport in October 2015

Ukraine honors “cyborg” troops who withstood Russia’s 242-day siege of Donetsk airport

KYIV – Ukraine commemorated Donetsk Airport Remembrance Day on January 16 and honored the soldiers who – outnumbered, and for eight months – withstood superior Russian-led forces in the Donbas War.

Known as the second battle of the now-destroyed airport – named after Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev – the siege lasted 242 days from May 26, 2014, to January 20, 2015.

Despite dogged efforts to defend the strategic site’s two terminals, including the Ukrainian air traffic control tower atop which steadfastly stood a Ukrainian flag, the airport soon became a symbol of Ukraine’s struggle to defend itself amid Russia’s unprovoked aggression.

External relations: a promising start to 2021 for Ukraine

The new year has gotten off to a good start for Ukraine, at least in the realm of external relations. Official Kyiv has welcomed the change at the helm in Washington and is hopeful that the new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden will be better not only for Ukraine, but for Europe and international affairs generally.

Already buoyed by a number of significant foreign policy achievements during 2020, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s team is looking forward to building on these accomplishments knowing that, if the country can deliver on reforms and combat corruption, it can rely on more consistent forms of support from the U.S.

Russia’s strategy in the Azov Sea: the Kerch bridge, artificial shipping delays and continued harm to Ukraine

Russia’s “hard power” activity in the  Azov Sea has increased significantly since May 2018, when the authorities officially opened the Kerch Strait Bridge they had been building since the illegal annexation of Crimea (UNIAN, May 15, 2018). Immedia­tely, experts identified Moscow’s bridge building project as, in part, a deliberate “access limitation” operation. Moreover, both during the construction phase and since completion, it was accompanied by frequent freedom-of-navigation restrictions (“access denial” – see below), including systematic Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Coast Guard boarding and inspections of merchant vessels traveling through the Kerch Strait to and from Berdyansk and Mariupol, the Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea. Some of these incidents occurred only 5-7 miles from the Ukrainian coast and lasted up to 28-57 hours before the vessels were allowed to depart on their way (see EDM, June 11, 2018; Blackseanews.net, December 15, 2020).

U.S. sanctions Russian ship working on Nord Stream 2 pipeline

The United States has imposed sanctions on a Russian vessel in a bid to stop completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would carry Russian natural gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea.

The sanctions against the Russian pipe-laying ship Fortuna and its owner, KVT-RUS, is a departing salvo against Nord Stream 2 as former President Donald Trump leaves office after hotly contesting the pipeline.

The U.S. government and several EU members want to prevent the pipeline from being completed, saying it will strengthen Russia’s energy hold on Europe and undercut Ukraine’s role as a transit country for Russian gas.


House arrest denied in Sheremet case

A Ukrainian court has rejected a request by a jailed suspect in the high-profile 2016 killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet to be transferred to house arrest. Kyiv’s Shevchenko district court on January 19 ordered Andriy Antonenko to be remanded in pretrial detention. Mr. Sheremet, a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home, was leaving his apartment to head to the studio where he hosted a morning radio show when an improvised explosive device planted under his vehicle exploded on July 20, 2016, killing him.  Mr. Antonenko and two other suspects, Yulia Kuzmenko and Yana Duhar, were arrested in December 2019. Ms. Duhar and Ms. Kuzmenko were later transferred to house arrest.

The 2020 election and its aftermath

In my last column, I wrote I would be commenting on the election.  I had no idea how much there would be to consider, both pre-November 3 and post.  So, this column will be actually two.  And by the time it’s published and distributed, it may well be superseded by rapidly advancing events.  But here goes.

I supported Joe Biden from the very beginning of the campaign.  I believed his vast experience, moderate approach to politics and record of achievement set him up to be the best leader for America.  As a House staffer in the 1980s, I worked with Mr. Biden’s Senate office and became aware of his life-long association with Ukrainian Americans and his deep commitment to Ukraine.

A political quandary and personal introspective

I admit that I was provoked or encouraged by recent events in the United States. However, my observations apply to more than one country and transcend simple party politics. Cost cutting and small government Republicans have driven the national debt to an all-time high and progressive Democrats have totally changed colors on foreign policy in this case for the better. America is upside down. But so is the world. The Pope proclaims that women may read in Church but not serve as priests. For that he is applauded. How generous and progressive!

Mine is neither a lamentation nor a condemnation. It is simply an observation. Whether it’s a conclusion of good or bad depends on one’s perspective. The question is what role does ideology or principle play in politics today. The answer is a very small one, at best. This is not an American phenomenon.

Ukraine needs U.S. supply of COVID-19 vaccine

Dear Editor:

All of us have been through some anxious times in the last year or so. COVID-19 has been a major cause of our worries. For those of us fortunate enough to live in the United States, that concern will diminish as the various vaccines become available and their distribution becomes more efficient. This is not the case for our families and friends in Ukraine. You may be aware that Ukraine had been negotiating with Pfizer and other Western suppliers when an executive order by the now former administration stopped all vaccine exports.

Members of the Ukrainian American community commemorate the Heavenly Hundred in front of the Lincoln Memorial

2020: Ukrainians in the U.S.: Active despite pandemic

Not even a pandemic could stop Ukrainians, especially Ukrainians in the U.S. The year 2020 began like any other year, but then things changed, and the community adapted with events, meetings and other activities moved online. Major events and milestones, like the 95th anniversary of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, were commemorated, some events were postponed, and others had to be cancelled. But, as an editorial in The Weekly reminded readers, “Hope is not cancelled.”

Filmmaker and writer Oleh Sentsov visited the United States on January 25, with a stop at the Ukrainian National Home in New York hosted by Razom for Ukraine, to discuss his observations since his release from Russian imprisonment in December 2019 after his arrest in Crimea in May 2014 by Russian occupying forces. Mr. Sentsov focused his remarks to the nearly 300 in attendance on the political prisoners held in Russia, those held by the Russia-backed militants in the Donbas, and the political situations in Ukraine and Russia.