January 31, 2020



Zelenskyy: Holodomor was genocide

For Ukraine, the Holodomor of 1932-1933 is genocide, not a social or economic tragedy, as some try to present it. This was stated by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an interview with the Times of Israel, according to Gazeta.ua. “Many people were eliminated. They were seized, their property – their houses, land, cattle, everything was taken from them. And if they didn’t surrender their assets, they were killed. They were shot. Millions of people died. Many countries have recognized that the Holodomor is a genocide. And I know that Israel understands this and understands that Ukraine recognized the Holocaust as genocide. For Ukraine, this is not a social or economic tragedy. This is genocide. Millions of Ukrainians were eliminated,” the Ukrainian leader said. “There was a lot of silence in different media because of the policy of the USSR, because the USSR hid all the information. It hid the records; it hid mass graves. There wasn’t enough information about it. This is how history was created. We understand that there are different histories. But I am sure that in the future people will understand the history of Ukraine and the real facts. Millions of Ukrainians were killed during the Holodomor,” Mr. Zelenskyy said. More than 7 million people died in the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-1933. At the peak of mortality – in June 1933 – 34,170 people died every day in Ukraine; two people died every five seconds. The true number of victims cannot be calculated because the Soviet government destroyed all documents related to the genocide against Ukrainians. (Religious Information Service of Ukraine)


Zelenskyy on anti-Semitism in Ukraine

According to research, Ukraine has the lowest level of anti-Semitism in Europe, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview with the Times of Israel, as cited by Gordon media. In the interview published on January 19, he said that in Ukraine, as elsewhere in the world, there is a certain percentage of people who do not see “anyone but their nation.” Mr. Zelenskyy noted that, according to a Pew Research Center survey for 2018, Ukraine has the lowest level of anti-Semitism in Europe. He added: “I have Jewish blood. And I’m the president.” Mr. Zelenskyy said, “as elsewhere in the world, now and in the past, there is a certain percentage of people who do not see anyone but their nation,” and the same thing happened during World War II, during the occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany. The president noted that “the same complex attitude was demonstrated to the Jewish people in Soviet times,” now Ukraine has “the lowest level of anti-Semitism.” Mr. Zelenskyy stressed that during World War II, there were people in France, Poland, Germany, Belarus and Ukraine who saved Jews from the Nazis, but “at the same time there were people who collaborated with the Nazis.” He underscored that Ukraine is proud of the low level of anti-Semitism. The country “has a percentage of radical people, but it is very small,” he said. (Religious Information Service of Ukraine)


EU expands Russia sanctions list

The European Union has added seven names to its list of people facing sanctions for undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence. The sanctions list, which now consists of 177 individuals and 44 entities, was established after Russia seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and has grown over succeeding years as Moscow has continued to back militants in eastern Ukraine. The EU General Affairs Council on January 28 added the seven individuals to the list for their involvement in the local “elections” organized by Crimea’s Russian-imposed authorities in September 2019. They will have their assets frozen and be put under a visa ban. The seven include Sergei Danilenko, Lidia Basova and Yekaterina Pyrkova of Sevasto­pol’s municipal election committee, as well as Yuriy Gotsanyuk, the head of the de facto Crimean government. The three other targeted individuals are Mikhail Razvozhayev, Vladimir Nemtsev and Yekaterina Altaba­yeva. In March, the EU is expected to prolong its sanctions by another six months. (Rikard Jozwiak of RFE/RL)


New Crimea-related sanctions by U.S.

The U.S. Treasury Department has joined the European Union and Canada in imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow’s “continued aggression toward Ukraine and attempted occupation of Crimea,” a news release says. A total of eight individuals and a privately owned railroad company face restrictive measures in the form of asset freezes in the United States, according to the department’s Office of Foreign Assts Control (OFAC). Seven of these individuals, whom the Treasury Department called “illegitimate Russian-backed Crimean officials,” were also designated by the EU on January 28. Canada blacklisted six of the individuals. The imposition of sanctions was made “as part of a coordinated action in a strong demonstration of the international community’s continued condemnation of Russia’s interference in Crimean politics.” There are now 692 individuals and entities, as well as their subsidiaries, blacklisted by the U.S. government. Canada’s analogous list contains more than 430 individuals and entities. Grand Service Express and its CEO, Aleksandr Ganov, were put under sanctions for supporting “Russia’s efforts to deepen the economic integration of Russia and Crimea.” This was in reference to a rail link that was opened in late December 2019 between Russia and the Ukrainian peninsula over a bridge that was built for which sanctions were also imposed. “The GSE transport company operates in Russia, therefore, sanctions will not affect the company’s activities,” the press service of Grand Service Express told Interfax. Canada, the EU, and the United States began issuing the restrictive measures after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and their respective sanctions lists have grown over the subsequent years as Moscow has continued to back separatists in eastern Ukraine. (RFE/RL, with reporting by Interfax)


Bolton: Trump tied aid to probes

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has made claims in an unpublished book that U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to freeze aid to Ukraine unless it investigated his political rivals, The New York Times reports. The January 26 report said Mr. Bolton writes in the book that the president had told him he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to Ukraine until it helped him with investigations, including into former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son. Mr. Trump’s legal team has repeatedly insisted that the president never tied Ukraine aid to investigations. After the report went online, Democrats renewed their demand for Mr. Bolton to be called to testify in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. The president faces one charge of abuse of power and another on obstruction of Congress over his alleged efforts to prod Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while withholding $391 million in military assistance to Kyiv. Mr. Trump denied the claim in a series of tweets early on January 27, saying: “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.” He added, “In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.” (RFE/RL, with reporting by The New York Times, AP, C-SPAN, The Hill, and Reuters)


NPR reporter barred from Ukraine trip

The U.S. State Department didn’t include a reporter from National Public Radio (NPR) in the press pool for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Ukraine and four other countries. NPR and the State Department Correspondents’ Association (SDCA), which represents reporters covering the State Department, said on January 27 that reporter Michele Kelemen was removed from the travelling pool.
The removal can be seen only as retaliation for her colleague’s interview with Mr. Pompeo, who angrily responded to NPR journalist Mary Louise Kelly’s questions about Ukraine days earlier, the SDCA said. “The State Department press corps has a long tradition of accompanying secretaries of state on their travels and we find unacceptable to punish an individual member of our association,” Shaun Tandon, the head of the association, said in a statement. The State Department didn’t immediately address the exclusion of the NPR reporter. Ms. Kelly interviewed Pompeo on January 24. She said the secretary of state got angry and ended the interview when he was asked questions about defending U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was fired by President Donald Trump last year. According to Ms. Kelly, she was then asked to go into Mr. Pompeo’s private living room to continue the conversation. Ms. Kelly said that Mr. Pompeo yelled and used foul language as he claimed that most Americans do not know where Ukraine is located. The NPR reporter Kelly said the secretary of state also asked her: “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” In a subsequent statement, Mr. Pompeo accused the reporter of lying when setting up the interview and in agreeing to conduct the post-interview conversation off the record. NPR issued a response to Pompeo’s statement, calling Ms. Kelly a reporter with “utmost integrity” and said it stood behind her report.
Mr. Pompeo’s foreign trip started on January 29. The barred reporter, Ms. Kelemen, has covered the State Depart­ment for two decades and said she was not given a reason for being removed from the travel pool. (RFE/RL, with reporting by AFP and Reuters)


EU diplomat wants to visit war zone

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, has said he wants to visit the frontline in the war zone of eastern Ukraine. The trip would take place during his first visit as the EU’s top diplomat to Ukraine, Mr. Borrell said at a news conference in Brussels during a break in the EU-Ukraine Association Council meeting on January 28. “I would like to visit a more significant part of the country from the point of view of foreign relations,” he said. “I would like to visit the Donbas, the border where, as I know, hostilities are taking place in order to get a feel for the situation on the ground. We must make the most important efforts to stop killing people.” He mentioned the outcome of the meeting in December between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine in Paris aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the Donbas conflict, and he emphasized that “the outcome of the last meeting in Paris should be implemented on the ground.” Mr. Borrell said the EU could provide Ukraine with humanitarian assistance, help with removing mines, and assess the state of infrastructure in order to help with reconstruction, and he also mentioned the importance of ensuring the free movement of vessels in the Azov Sea. “We will continue to support the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Mr. Borrell said. (RFE/RL, with reporting by Interfax and Korrespondent)


Akhmetov buys $221 M French estate

Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov has bought a lavish, 14-bedroom mansion for 200 million euros ($221 million U.S.) in the French Riviera town of Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat, the Financial Times (FT) reported on January 27. The seller of the nearly 200-year-old home in the south of France, Italy-based beverage company Campari Group, had announced an agreement to sell it to an unnamed buyer in August. The acquisition of the 19th-century Palladian mansion and botanical gardens adds to Mr. Akhmetov’s growing real-estate portfolio, which includes a penthouse in the upscale Knightsbridge neighborhood of London at One Hyde Park purchased for a then-record $221 million in 2011. Mr. Akhmetov, 53, is Ukraine’s wealthiest person whose net worth is an estimated $6.7 billion by Forbes. A native of the eastern Donetsk region, he accumulated his wealth in metals and mining, and owns a sprawling business empire that includes coal mines in the United States, and energy, engineering, finance, media and retail companies in Ukraine. He also owns the Shakhtar Donetsk soccer team. FT cited a statement it obtained from Mr. Akhmetov’s System Capital Management (SCM) announcing the latest property purchase: “SCM Holdings Limited investment company announces the acquisition of a real-estate asset, Volla ‘Les Cedres (France), from the Campari Group.” 
(RFE/RL, with reporting by Bloomberg, Forbes, Financial Times, Variety, and Mansion Global)


Handzyuk suspect arrested in Bulgaria

A court in Bulgaria on January 27 sent Ukrainian national Oleksiy Moskalenko (Levin) to jail for 40 days based on a red Interpol notice issued by Ukraine on suspicion of co-organizing an attack on Ukrainian activist Kateryna Handzyuk that led to her death. Bulgarian prosecutors the same day said they personally received the requisite documents for extradition from Ukrainian Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak. Mr. Moskalenko, 42, was detained in the Black Sea coastal city of Burgas on January 24 without resisting and was identified by his fingerprints, Bulgarian police said at a briefing. He was wearing a disguise that differed from the picture listed on the Interpol notice. Bulgarian police said the suspect crossed by foot into Bulgaria from Romania in 2018 and was living in an apartment rented by a woman from Ukraine. On July 31 of that year an assailant poured acid on Handzyuk in Kherson. Thirty percent of her body was burned and three months later she died of her wounds after numerous operations in Kyiv. An official in the City Council and an adviser to Kherson’s mayor, Handzyuk often spoke out against public corruption in the city. Investigators say she was killed for accusing local politicians of stealing from the local budget and of illegal logging in the region. Five men were convicted on August 5 for carrying out the attack and given prison sentences ranging between six and a half and three years. Mr. Moskalenko is charged with “intended grievous bodily injury, which caused [the] death of the victim,” according to the Interpol notice. Ukrainian prosecutors suspect Kherson Oblast Council head Vladyslav Manher of ordering the attack on Handzyuk. Mr. Manher has denied wrongdoing and has stated that he didn’t personally know the victim and wasn’t involved in illegal tree felling in the region. He has been free on bail since February. (RFE/RL’s Bulgarian and Ukrainian Services, with reporting by Hromadske and Ukrayinska Pravda)


Two soldiers killed, two wounded

Ukraine’s military said two of its soldiers were killed and two wounded in the country’s eastern Donbas region. In a statement on January 26, the military said one soldier was killed and another wounded by gunfire, while in a separate incident another soldier was killed and another wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED). The statement did not disclose the soldiers’ identities or where exactly the incidents occurred. Eleven Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this month so far, exceeding the number of killed in December 2019 by two. The military said it reported 12 ceasefire violations by Russia-backed militants on January 26, while it reported 10 violations the day before. Earlier on January 26, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said militants had shelled Ukrainian government positions in the Luhansk and Donetsk region. Some 130 Ukrainian military personnel were killed in 2019 and the beginning of January, the Prosecutor-General’s Office said on January 17. In the Donetsk region, 101 service personnel were killed, while 31 died in the Luhansk region. (RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, with reporting by Hromadske International)