News, observations about Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukrainian independence, Ukraine's wars of independence, Russian imperialism, US-Ukraine relations, former captive nations, democracy, human rights, nationalism, patriotism, Poroshenko, Putin, Maidan, Euromaidan, ATO, Donbass, Heaven's Hundred, Russia, Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-16, Crimea, Revolution of Dignity, Kyiv, Lviv
Friday, March 17, 2017
Congressional Support for Ukraine Needed
Even since before Ukraine regained its freedom in 1999, Ukrainian Americans had worked closely with their elected representatives in Washington to champion the cause of Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. While Ukrainian Americans have advocated on behalf of freedom for Ukraine since their arrival upon these shores, their efforts became structured and enhanced when the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America established the Ukrainian National Information Service in Washington in 1977.
Obviously, the first to benefit from this organized campaign was the government and Embassy of independent Ukraine, which bolstered the community effort on a governmental level.
In the past, in the days of the evil empire, the work focused on national rights activists, clergy and so-called dissidents. Nowadays, as a result of the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17, attention shifted to realistically assisting Ukraine in defending itself against the invader.
Unfortunately, after three years of fighting against Russian invaders, Kyiv is not any closer to securing peace and stability for its Ukraine and the region. In February 2014, as the 2014 Winter Olympic Games were winding down, host country Russia violated the UN Charter by invading Ukrainian regions of Crimea and soon afterward Luhansk and Donetsk.
Since then, 2,000 soldiers were killed, nearly 10,000 Ukrainian men, women and children were lost their lives, 23,000 wounded, and nearly 2 million were internally displaced. More than 7% of Ukraine was seized by Russia and millions of Ukrainians in occupied regions are being subjected to endless Russian terror.
The free world’s interest has not been detached from this bloodletting. France and Germany have organized truce negotiations with Ukraine and Russia, but, unfortunately, Moscow never abided by the agreements and persisted with its bloody invasion. The United States, Canada and other EU countries instituted major economic sanctions against Russian officials and oligarchs, which have been disregarded as the Kremlin continues its aggression against Ukraine. Sanctions against Russian must be continued and Moscow must be banned from global events until it withdraws from Ukraine.
For all intents and purposes, today’s Russia, which is a mere extension of tsarist and soviet communist despotism, has not changed its historical imperial policies. Ukraine and Ukrainians are again being compelled to singlehandedly defend the European Union from Russia’s western onslaught.
Ironically, at a time when Ukraine most needs a strong and determined United States in its corner, the White House’s current occupant President Donald J. Trump dangerously favors Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine is left with no other recourse than again to depend on Ukrainian Americans and their elected officials in Washington, DC.
This year, Senators and Congressmen, who understand the global peril posed by Russia, have introduced seven resolutions that if adopted will help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression. Without a doubt, any form of negotiated compromise with Russia will be detrimental to Ukraine and the free world. Any thought of freezing hostilities and allowing Russian mercenary-terrorists to illegally administer occupied Ukrainian lands, will be harmful to Ukraine and the free world. Ukrainian Americans must insist that their elected officials demand a complete and unconditional Russian withdrawal from Ukraine.
If you support Ukraine and the other x-captive nations in their struggle against Russian aggression, call your elected officials’ offices and insist that they endorse these resolutions:
H.R.463 Introduced in House (01/12/2017)
Crimea Annexation Non-recognition Act
This bill states that is U.S. policy to not recognize the de jure or de facto sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea, its airspace, or its territorial waters.
The bill prohibits any federal agency from taking any action or extending any assistance that recognizes or implies recognition of the de jure or de facto sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea, its airspace, or its territorial waters.
The President may waive such prohibitions if such a waiver is vital to U.S. national security interests
H.R.830 Introduced in House (02/02/2017)
STAND for Ukraine Act
The bill urges that the Government Publishing Office not print any document indicating Crimea as part of the Russian Federation (Russia).
U.S. sanctions provided for in Executive Orders 13660, 13661, 13662, (blocking property of persons contributing to the situation in Ukraine) and 13685 (blocking property of persons contributing to the situation in Crimea) shall remain in effect until the President certifies to Congress that:
·Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea has been restored, or
·The status of Crimea has been resolved to the satisfaction of a democratically elected government of Ukraine.
The Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014 is amended to authorize the President to block and prohibit a foreign person's transactions of property or property interests that are U.S.-sited or controlled by a U.S. person if the foreign person has knowingly: (1) violated such executive orders, or (2) facilitated deceptive or structured transactions for or on behalf of any person subject to U.S. sanctions against Russia.
H.Res.88 Introduced in House (02/03/2017)
Calling on the Russia Federation to Stop the Violence in Ukraine
(1) calls on the Russian Federation to;
(A) stop the violence in Ukraine;
(B) honor the ceasefire agreed to under the Minsk Accord;
(C) withdraw heavy weapons and troops from Ukraine’s sovereign territory;
(D) stop financing the separatists in eastern Ukraine;
(E) allow repairs to critical infrastructure; and
(F) fulfill all of its Minsk commitments;
(2) expresses its sense that continued and further unlawful Russian aggression in Ukraine may warrant considering the imposition of additional and more burdensome sanctions on the Russian Federation;
(3) calls on the United States and other NATO countries to provide more defensive military support for Ukraine in fighting off Russian aggression; and
(4) calls on the United States and the United Nations and its constituent agencies to provide more support for the 1,700,000 internally displaced people in Ukraine.
S.94 Introduced in Senate (01/11/2017)
Countering Russian Hostilities Act of 2017
A bill to impose sanctions in response to cyber intrusions by the Government of the Russian Federation and other aggressive activities of the Russian Federation, and for other purposes.
H.R.1059 Introduced in House (02/15/2017)
Russia Sanctions Review Act of 2017
To provide for congressional oversight of actions to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation, and for other purposes.
S.Res.54 Introduced in Senate (02/07/2017)
Expressing Unwavering Commitment of the United States to NATO
A resolution expressing the unwavering commitment of the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
S.341 Introduced in Senate (02/08/2017)
Russian Sanctions Review Act of 2017
A bill to provide for congressional oversight of actions to waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of sanctions with respect to the Russian Federation, and for other purposes.
Officials’ Shared Views
American government officials and military officers share the views held by the Ukrainian American community regardless of partisan affiliation. A few of them we’ve listed here:
February 1, 2017
UN Security Council
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley
“The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea … Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”
February 14, 2017
Washington, Times op-ed
Gen. Philip Breedlove (ret.)
“Russia views our interactions as zero-sum and believes that the best way to bolster itself is by degrading America. Russia doesn’t just seek to break the rules of the international order; it seeks to rewrite them. Russia sees itself as a great power, able to drive outcomes on the world stage at will. And Russia has made it clear that it is willing to use military force to back up its claims and achieve its ends.”
Security Assistance to Ukraine:
January 12, 2017
Senate Armed Services Committee
James Mattis confirmation hearing
“Q: Do you support continued U.S. security assistance to Ukraine? If so, what strategy would you propose counter Russia's hybrid tactics which have employed both hard and soft power?"
“A: I support aid to Ukraine in support of their sovereignty.”
Community Follow Up
If you tweet, regularly tweet messages aimed at your elected officials “Twitter handle” – @ – along with appropriate hashtags such as #SupportUkraine requesting their support for the previously listed resolutions. Elected officials Twitter handles can be found on their websites. Tweet often for each resolution and tell your friends to retweet your tweets.
Suggested tweet template:
Help Ukraine in its war against Russian invader. Support (list specific resolution) @YourElectedOfficial #SupportUkraine
It is safe to say that when these tweets reach a critical mass, then the free world and government leaders will recognize that by saving Ukraine, they will save the world from Russian subjugation.
Ukraine Unleashes Judicial Assault on Russian Imperialism
After more than three years of fighting Russian invaders in eastern Ukraine, Russian oppression of Crimean Tatars, fruitless negotiations to end the war, ineffective punitive sanctions against Russian leaders, the free world’s powerlessness to subdue Russia, and Russia’s obstinate drive to re-subjugate Ukraine, Kyiv has opened an historic offensive front against Moscow – a judicial one.
Earlier this week, Kyiv brought suit against Russia in the International Court of Justice for its invasion of Ukraine. According to experts and pundits, the case in The Hague could go down as one of the most spectacular in years based on the points made in the lead paragraph. Will one of the strongest and fiercest nations on earth, a nuclear-armed, energy-producing global bully sit penitently in the dock and accept a guilty verdict of the court?
The detailed 45-page indictment outlines the comprehensive range of contemporary Russian violations of two UN conventions. Initially, Kyiv accuses Russia of violating the Terrorist Financing Treaty through its support of “illegally armed groups” in the occupied, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
The second part of the claim covers the documented mistreatment of Crimean Tartars and ethnic Ukrainian populations when Russia annexed after a fabricated referendum the Ukrainian peninsula in March 2014. Russia is accused of violating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) by imprisoning and even killing Crimean Tatar activists and banning the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar People – its representative body.
Ukraine cites UN and OSCE reports from the region, as well as NATO satellite imagery as evidence. The suit calls on the court to hold Russia to account for its crimes, including the downing of MH17 and firing on civilians. Kyiv is also demanding war reparations for the damage and destruction of Ukrainian property.
In her opening salvo against Russia, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Olena Zerkal itemized Ukraine’s claims against its historical aggressor. Zerkal, a 44-year-old legal expert and erudite defender of Ukraine’s interests, noted that thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians have already suffered deadly attacks, and millions remain under imminent threat. She said their “peaceful and simple day-to-day routines have been ruined,” and their fundamental rights have been blatantly violated by one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia.
Zerkal went on to state: “The Russian Federation continuously violates international law and abuses human rights. The Russian Federation continues to supply deadly assistance to illegal armed groups in Ukraine that have committed numerous terrorist attacks. In occupied Crimea, the Russian Federation wholly disregards human rights, while implementing policies of cultural erasure and pervasive discrimination. These actions are unacceptable to the international community: They have been denounced by the United Nations.
“The Russian Federation implements its foreign policy without regard for human life, and uses any available tool to impose its will.
“The Russian Federation’s tactics include support for terrorism and acts of racial discrimination, as well as propaganda, subversion, intimidation, political corruption, and cyber-attacks. This is the reality that we are facing in Ukraine. The Russian Federation has continued to engage in this conduct for three years, and all this time it continues to deny its multifaceted aggression against Ukraine.
Zerkal reiterated for the International Court of Justice Russian crimes against Ukraine that have been placed in the public record by numerous military and political institutions and have been regarded as proof of Moscow’s belligerent and criminal intentions.
“I stand before the World Court to request protection of the basic human rights of the Ukrainian people. We seek justice and accountability under international law, while the Russian Federation continues to demonstrate disregard for its obligations under international treaties. As a result, the people of Ukraine are facing an ongoing campaign of terror and cultural erasure. The situation is truly dire,” Zerkal appealed to the court.
Ukraine said in the ICJ filing that since 2014, Russia has stepped up its interference in Ukraine’s affairs, “intervening militarily…financing acts of terrorism and violating the human rights of millions of Ukraine’s citizens, including, for all too many, their right to life.”
It said Kyiv is seeking “full reparations for... acts of terrorism the Russian Federation has caused, facilitated, or supported,” citing bombardments of residential areas. Also, the provisional measures Ukraine requests include a freeze on providing money, weapons, vehicles, equipment, training or personnel to the separatists.
For the past three years Russia has repeatedly denied in the face of evidence to the contrary that it has been sending troops and military equipment to eastern Ukraine, and supporting its mercenary separatists and terrorists. There is extensive public evidence that Russia is not only supporting illegal anti-government armed groups in Donbas but had organized the conflict in the first place.
Former Russian FSB colonel Igor Girkin (“Strelkov”) publicly admitted how he “pulled the trigger of war” in Donbas when he, after helping Russia establish control over Crimea, pulled together a unit of Russian and local volunteers who started seizing police stations in Donbas to obtain weapons: “If our unit had not crossed the border, it would have all ended as it did in Kharkiv or Odesa. Several dozen casualties, those with burns and those arrested. And that would have been the end of it… It was practically our unit, which got this ongoing war moving.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Information Policy has been keeping track of Russia’s lies about its war in eastern Ukraine. Deputy Minister Dmytro Zolotukhin listed the following five key points:
1. Events in eastern Ukraine are an internal Ukrainian conflict rather that military aggression.
In fact, Russian forces started establishing corresponding paramilitary organizations in Donbas, financially supporting them and providing military training, as early as 2009, in the context of preparations for an active phase of aggression against Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine’s state agencies and public organizations of Ukraine have provided and continue to provide gigabytes of data evidencing the presence of Russian troops in the sovereign territory of Ukraine.
2. It is a lie that flight MH17 could be shot down by the Ukrainian military, which Russia claims could also be deployed in close proximity to the disaster site.
The investigators have long established all the facts and aspects of the way the BUK-M1 missile launcher, which killed 298 people, was brought to the territory of Ukraine from Russia, being controlled by Russian mercenaries and terrorists that they supervised and sponsored, and fired a missile from an already established location.
3. It is also not true that there are no Russian weapons and troops in Donbas.
4. Russia is also lying about the fact that Ukraine does not adhere to Minsk Agreements.
The latest escalation in Avdiyivka was provoked by pro-Russian terrorists five hours after a telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Volunteers spotted armored vehicles and heavy artillery in close proximity to the contact line, which is a violation of the norms of the agreements under the Minsk deal.
5. Russia claims that the current railroad blockade evidences the fact that Ukraine itself is a sponsor of terrorism.
At Ukrainian enterprises, which the Russians have not yet managed to steal, citizens of Ukraine have been working. They receive salaries and pay taxes to the Ukrainian budget. As UNIAN reported, the representatives of the Russian Federation on March 7, during the hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, deny Ukraine’s accusations, claiming that there are allegedly no legislative or factual grounds for the introduction of provisional measures against Russia. Russia’s mission in The Hague is to prove that a “coup” and “civil war” took place in Ukraine rather than a popular uprising against Moscow’s henchman, Viktor Yanukovych, who summoned Russian troops to quell demonstrators and then fled Ukraine. Russia further claims that the Ukrainian language was never officially recognized in Ukraine and that Crimea was illegally included into Ukraine in 1991, without an appropriate referendum.
Dr. Iryna Marchuk, associate professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen, in an article for EjilTalk, summarized by the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, discussed Ukraine’s chances of winning a guilty verdict against Russia.
Marchuk believes Ukraine has better chances to succeed with its claims under International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. She noted that with respect to the violations of CERD, Ukraine argued that after Russia seized Crimea by military force and attempted to legitimize its act of aggression through the illegal referendum, it created a climate of violence and intimidation against non-Russian speakers in Crimea that violates their rights under CERD.
However, Marchuk cautioned that the Court will not provide answers that Ukraine wants to hear on the use of force and the legality of Crimea’s unilateral cessation, as it is limited to the examination of claims that strictly fall within CERD. If Ukraine wants to get answers to those questions, she advised that it should consider lobbying for the initiation of advisory proceedings before the ICJ at the request of the United Nations General Assembly.
Founded in 1945, Russia fully recognizes the authority of the ICJ and, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, reserves the right to appoint a Russian to serve as one of the court’s 15 judges. Ukraine can call for an ad hoc judge to participate specifically in this proceeding. Rome Statute that governs the ICJ, which Russia had signed, but not ratified.
As for precedents, the ICJ heard a case that Georgia brought against Russia for the 2008 war in Georgia’s South Ossetia region, and it was “highly controversial,” former ICJ judge Bruno Simma observed for Deutsche Welle. He served on the court from 2003-12. As Ukraine is doing now, Georgia used CERD as the basis for its suit. By just one vote, the court granted an “interim injunction,” calling on both sides to cease violations. Later, the court sided with Russia and dismissed the case on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction.
Judgments delivered by the Court (or by one of its Chambers) in disputes between States are binding upon the parties concerned. Article 94 of the United Nations Charter lays down that “each Member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of [the Court] in any case to which it is a party.” So Russia must abide by the decision – even guilty.
Judgments are final and without appeal. If either of the parties challenges their scope or meaning, it has the option to request an interpretation. In the event of the discovery of a fact hitherto unknown to the Court which might be a decisive factor, either party may apply for revision of the judgment.
As regards advisory opinions, it is usually for the United Nations organs and specialized agencies requesting them to give effect to them or not by whatever means are appropriate for them.
Simma said the court could rule in the Ukraine vs Russia case the same as it did in the Georgia vs Russia case. It is “always difficult to deal with cases of war involving major powers.” In the claim of persecution of minorities, CERD contains a provision calling for “serious negotiations” between the parties in advance of bringing a case to the ICJ. Russia refuses to seriously negotiate is aggression against Ukraine or any other transgression.
Court proceedings could last up to three years, Simma said. “An interim injunction could come in April, followed by a decision on jurisdiction a year later. Then, the decision itself could be handed down a year and a half after that.” Ukraine’s chances of success are not zero, Simma said. Even an interim injunction on its own would be a “success for Ukraine,” he admitted.
Is a suit filed in the ICJ, an agency of the United Nations, worthwhile? By and large, the UN has been supportive of Ukraine during the months of Russian invasion, occupation and war. But Russia has also refused to abide by the tone and spirit of UN or other decisions.
For example, most recently, a senior American general told Congress on Wednesday, March 8, that Russia has deployed a prohibited cruise missile, the first public confirmation by the US that the Kremlin had fielded the weapon in violation of a landmark arms control agreement. The missile is believed to have been moved in December from a test site in southern Russia to an undisclosed operational base.
However, realistically, even though the decisions are binding, will Russia abide by them? Moscow has not lived up to any international treaty, covenant or accord that it has ever signed. Russia has also violated each Minsk ceasefire agreement related to the current war with Ukraine. The onus is on Russia to abide by the ICJ ruling and it will face global condemnation if it doesn’t.
Nonetheless, by bringing suit against Russia in The Hague, Ukraine will have taken another step in exposing Russian crimes against Ukraine and humanity for the world to see. As Ukraine’s opening remarks certify, the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17 is, in fact, a continuation of Russia’s imperial mission of subjugating Ukraine and the nearby independent countries. Turning this suit against Russian into a contemporary version of the Nuremberg Trials would certainly be worth the effort.
Ambassador Nikki Haley’s remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Conflicts in Europe on Tuesday, February 21, exhibited a welcome pro-Ukraine tone from the new American diplomat that was uncharacteristically different from what we’re used to expect from President Trump.
However, the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations also expressed a few troublesome observations about the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17.
Addressing European conflicts that can undermine continental and global stability, Haley classified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as being acutely challenging without calling it an invasion. Specifically, she said, the challenge is “Russia’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine and infringe upon Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Attempts? Russia is not attempting this act of aggression. It is not planning or rehearsing it. Russia has already cross Ukraine’s border with soldiers, rockets, tanks and other heavy weapons. It is in Ukraine, engaging Ukrainian armed forces in battle, killing civilians – nearly 10,000 by latest count – destroying cities, towns and villages in eastern Ukraine, and threatening regional and global peace and stability.
Haley also pointed out that Russia “occupied” Crimea. A welcome reference. But such a declaration should have been preceded by a factual observation that Moscow first invaded the Ukrainian peninsula in February 2014 and afterward unlawfully annexed it and turned it into an occupied territory in violation of at least the UN Charter.
The Ambassador then said Russia “armed, financed, and organized separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.” Indeed, Moscow has been doing that for its mercenary terrorists but it has also stationed regular soldiers of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. When killed in action, these pathetic troops have been sent home in sealed containers so their loved ones are not aware of what has happened to them, or they have been submerged in Ukrainian lakes, or cremated in efficient mobile crematoria.
Her final troublesome remark pertained to the ongoing bombardment ofAvdiyivka. Haley said pictures of this war-torn town show “the consequences of Russia’s ongoing interference in Ukraine.” If this is merely the result of Moscow’s interference in Ukraine then I wouldn’t want to see the effects of its unbridled war against Ukraine. No, Madam Ambassador, Russia’s war in Ukraine cannot be demeaned or sanitized by calling it interference. It slanders the sacrifices of the thousands of civilians and soldiers who died or were wounded.
On the positive side, Haley did publicly recognize Ukraine’s dreadful condition, which is more than the President has done. She cited NATO’s training and assistance in building the defense capabilities of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, as well as the OSCE’s crucial role in observing and monitoring the war-ravaged region of Ukraine.
In a historical flashback, she recalled that more than three years ago the Ukrainian people took to the streets of Kyiv to protest political oppression and corruption. “These protesters demanded freedom, democracy, and respect for the rule of law, and they succeeded in creating a new Ukraine. The United States continues to stand with the Ukrainian people,” she pledged. But, unfortunately for Ukrainians, she noted, Russia then arose and prevented the change that Ukrainians wanted.
The Ambassador also criticized “Russia’s recognition in recent days of purported passports and other illegitimate documents distributed by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions is another direct challenge to efforts to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.”
Truthfully, Haley went further in supporting Ukraine than President Trump. She admitted that the United States seeks a better relationship with Russia, but, she cautioned, that goal cannot come at the cost of the security of America’s European friends and allies.
“That is why the United States calls on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is why we continue to urge Russia to show a commitment to peace – by fully implementing the commitments under the Minsk agreements and ending its occupation of Crimea,” she insisted.
“The United States and the EU remain united in this approach, keeping sanctions in place until Moscow fully honors its Minsk commitments. Our separate Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”
The Ambassador concluded on a positive note about sanctions that Ukrainians in Ukraine and around the world have welcomed hearing from US and other diplomats in the hallowed halls of the United Nations.
With a disturbing dearth of supportive White House comments about Ukraine, Ambassador Haley’s remarks are to be cheered. In time, hopefully, we can expect the troublesome remarks to be supplanted by her unambiguously vocal advocacy for Ukraine and condemnation of Russia for its ongoing crimes against humanity.
Three Years Later & Russia Still Stumps Free World
As the 2014 Winter Olympic Games – which together with the Summer Olympics comprise humanity’s celebrated quadrennial exhibition of peace and fraternity – were winding down, host country Russia abruptly shattered global peace and stability. Moscow launched its blitzkrieg to re-subjugate Ukraine and the other x-captive nations and restore the iron curtain.
The free world was staggered by Russia’s invasion of an independent European country. But all along Moscow has been forthright with its intentions regarding what it perceives as its sphere of influence. The Kremlin habitually asserted its authority on its so-called near abroad and warned that the countries will face dire consequences it they violate its directives or seek to accede to EuroAtlantic political, military or economic pacts.
Vladimir Putin personally warned Kyiv and his in-country gauleiter Viktor Yanukovych against leaving Moscow’s orbit in the summer of 2013 during the commemorations of the millennium of Christianity of Kyiv-Rus. Yanukovych feigned Ukrainian patriotism but ultimately rejected EU accession igniting the national Revolution of Dignity.
The free world declined to consider seriously Putin’s threat but the Russian leader held fast. As the Ukrainian nation was defeating Russia on the streets of Kyiv and sending a strong signal to the world that only it will be the master of its destiny, Moscow invaded the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
The free world was again aghast, wondering why Putin decided to invade Ukraine, disrupt global affairs and international relations, and sow distrust among nations.
This confusion stems from a historical lack of appreciation of the invader and misplaced belief. Today’s mediators are addressing the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17 as a conflict between two rational opponents. In reality, it is far from that. For centuries, Russia – tsarist, communist or federal – has sought to conquer and subjugate Ukraine and other neighboring countries for the glory of Mother Russia. The same holds true today.
The Russian national mentality and that of its leadership oozes visions of imperial aggression, which today is strengthened by pure hatred.
During a discussion at the recent global security conference in Munich that was broadcast by TV 112 Ukraine, President Poroshenko offered this succinct clarification:
“Putin hates Ukraine deeply and sincerely. He denies distinctiveness and unique identity of the Ukrainian people. I know that personally. He publicly proclaims Ukrainian identity as a part of Russian dominant identity. He sees no place for Ukraine at the political map of Europe, and he wants to draw a place for Ukraine in Russian colors. But, it would be a mistake to think that the Russia’s appetites are limited to Ukraine only.”
Indeed, Russia in all of its imperial phases, personified today by Putin, built and reinforced its prison of nations.
The past three years have seen a real – not hybrid, ersatz or cyber – war in Ukraine. The mere photographs of war-torn eastern Ukraine reveal the devastation caused by Russia’s military assault against Ukraine that rival images of postwar Europe.
“The appalling number of victims highlights the immorality of Kremlin’s war against the Ukrainian people: over 9,800 Ukrainian people were killed, about 23,000 wounded and almost 1.8 million of internally displaced persons. 7.2 % of Ukrainian territory has been seized by Russia and millions of the citizens of Ukraine live there under occupation and endless terror. Russia persists in sending new fighters, weaponry and ammunition to Ukraine through the section of the Ukrainian-Russian state border of 409.7 km long, which remains out of control of the Ukrainian government,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said on this anniversary.
In Crimea, Russia seized the land, terrorized and imprisoned Crimean Tatars, staged a fabricated referendum and annexed the peninsula for itself. Crimea became occupied territory, where Russia regularly violates the people’s cultural, spiritual and human rights. Following in the footsteps of the draconian tsarist and communist phases of Russian imperialism, today’s Kremlin rulers are persecuting, arresting and imprisoning anyone in Crimea who criticizes or opposes the occupation regime.
“Occupied Crimea, closed for any form of international control and monitoring, is now an area for systemic violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, targeting, first of all, the Ukrainian activists and the indigenous people of Crimea – Crimean Tatars. The citizens of Ukraine are being groundlessly detained and imprisoned, activists are disappearing, their families and friends are facing intimidation. The Mejlis, a representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, was banned,” the Ukrainian government said.
Furthermore, in the course of the past three years, Russia has been busy militarizing the peninsula in the Black Sea by stationing aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Russia’s violation of the UN Charter and international law and order as well as its invasion of Ukraine are common knowledge but the world is incapable of forcing Moscow to withdraw. With a few exceptions, such as the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, other countries haven’t condemned Russia’s latest belligerence. Such a disunited front merely bolsters Moscow’s resolve to pursue its invasion of Ukraine as Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius has pointed out.
France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine as well as Russia’s domestic and regional mercenary-terrorists have concluded a few ceasefires that have been consistently trampled by Russia. European powers again are betting on the ultimate success of today’s ceasefire, but if history is a teacher it is also bound to fail because of Russian military violations and escalations. The time, money and effort wasted on the quadrilateral negotiations would have been better served if they were earmarked to rebuild Donbas schools destroyed by Russian bombardment.
The latest ceasefire began on Monday, February 20, amid a bloody escalation in fighting that began in January. Since then at least 30 civilians died in what Kyiv describes as Russia’s unsuccessful offensive against the city of Avdiyivka. According to the Ukrainian military, more than a dozen Ukrainian soldiers were killed and about 100 were wounded at the same time.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry observed: “Russia remains unwilling to implement the Minsk Agreements thus undermining all efforts taken by Ukraine and the international community towards de-escalation and stabilization in the region. Moscow’s propaganda has no limits to lie, falsification and doublespeak. Human life has no value for the aggressor. Besides their actions in Ukraine, the Russian structures were regularly spotted interfering in the internal affairs of other sovereign states. The aggressive policy of the Russian Federation poses a threat for the entire world order.”
NATO recognizes Russia’s guilt in the war with Ukraine and notes that Moscow has become more assertive than in the past. NATO Secretary General Jens Soltenberg told CNBC at the Munich Security Conference. “We have seen a Russia that has invested heavily in new military capabilities, which has tripled spending on defense over the last years, and — most importantly — which has been willing to use military force against neighbors in Georgia and Ukraine. And that’s exactly why NATO is responding in a measured defensive way.”
Is it possible that Russia has an unbreakable stranglehold on the free world?
As the Russian war against Ukraine begins its fourth year, Ukraine is confronted by a new White House administration that has not yet taken a clear stand in support of Ukraine’s rightful, sovereign place under the sun. President Donald J. Trump has expressed more support for Putin and Russia than Poroshenko and Ukraine. Trump’s trusted captains Paul Manafort and his connections with Yanukovych and Putin as well as Michael Flynn and his rendezvous with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak are the stuff of John le Carre’s novels. The policies Inside the Beltway reflect what I’ve labeled a Kremlin on the Potomac rather than the White House.
A few Cabinet members have expressed support for Ukraine, among them Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of Defense James Mattis. Vice-President Mike Pence is also a vocal member of the pro-Ukraine chorus.
In Munich, Poroshenko expressed confidence in US support, observing: “I had a wonderful conversation with Vice President of the United States Mike Pence. We share the same values, and Pence is informed about the situation in eastern Ukraine in detail. He also knows the reasons for failures in the implementation of the Minsk agreement and that Russia is responsible for those failures.”
I have my doubts because the Trump is the President and he calls the shots not spokesman Sean Spicer, who made pro-Ukraine references at press conferences on behalf of Trump. To the point, when Trump had the opportunity to personally declare support for Ukraine, insist that Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine and end the “conflict” at his first 77-minute long news conference, he didn't. Trump did mention Ukraine a few times in his remarks in reference to Manafort’s work in Kyiv but he faltered about what Manafort actually did in Ukraine, omitting to note that it was detrimental to Ukraine and the USA. The President did use the loathed “THE” Ukraine noun.
Foreign policy experts have been wondering what if Putin expands the war against Ukraine to other x-captive nations – as they expect he will. Will President Trump then continue to stand with Putin? If so, Trump will completely bankrupt America’s moral credibility around the world.
The free world must consider these venues of critical assistance for Ukraine.
Sanctions: As it rattles its saber around the world, Russia continues to wage its war in Ukraine even in the face of economic sanctions against its leaders. Fortunately, on this point, the free world is united: sanctions will not be lifted until Russia withdraws from Ukraine and Crimea. Sanctions must be continued and intensified. Complete, unconditional Russian withdrawal from Ukraine and surrender of its mercenary-terrorists will allow Kyiv to rebuild Ukraine. Anything less will contribute to organized or sporadic acts of Russian terrorism across Ukraine for years to come.
Weapons: Ukraine urgently needs more military aid from the United States and other allies, some of which are helping Kyiv with training and non-lethal materiel. The free world must publicly recognize the frontline in the defense of the European Union is in eastern Ukraine, where NATO is getting a free lesson about Russia’s military tactics.
Poroshenko, who advocates peaceful solutions, said as much in an interview with Bild German newspaper.
“You know that I am the President, who advocates peace, but now we are talking about the protection of our country and the people. To do this, we urgently need defensive weapons," he said, adding he believes that the US and Europe are aware of this need.
Legislatures: Ukraine must continue to depend on the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and other legislative advocates for Ukraine on Capitol Hill. Congressmen Sander Levin (D-MI), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Andy Harris (R-MD) recently sponsored a resolution (H. Res. 88) in the US House of Representatives calling on the Russia to stop the violence in eastern Ukraine, cease aiding its mercenary-terrorists, honor the Minsk ceasefire agreement, withdraw military weaponry from Ukraine, and repair Ukraine’s infrastructure damaged in the war. The resolution expresses the sense of Congress that additional sanctions might be imposed on Russia if the violence doesn’t subside.
Unity in Banishment: The free world must regard Russia as a criminal pariah that must be banned from all global events. This stigma must remain in place until Russia atones for its crimes against humanity.
Senator Menendez Exclusive: No Retreat from Supporting Ukraine
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), in an exclusive cyber-interview with The Torn Curtain 1991, assured Ukraine and Ukrainian Americans that he and his like-minded colleagues on Capitol Hill will not retreat from supporting Ukraine and other countries that face Russian aggression.
Menendez further said opposing political winds in the United States would not sway him from advocating on behalf of Ukraine. He noted Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was emboldened by the mere hint of the Trump Administration’s softened stance toward Russia.
Menendez is the senior member and former chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the architect of Russian sanctions legislation.
The full transcript of the interview follows. It was submitted to Senator Menendez before the latest escalation of Russian hostilities against Ukraine this past weekend.
The Torn Curtain 1991: The biggest question on the minds of Ukrainians (in Ukraine and Ukrainian Americans) as well as citizens of the former captive nations is should they fear that the United States will abandon its traditional support for their independence and sovereignty with the inauguration of Donald Trump as President? Will lawmakers such as you and your colleagues in the Ukrainian Congressional Caucus have the political strength to continue supporting those countries that are in the shadow of a belligerent Russia?
Senator Menendez: I have and will continue to stand with Ukrainians and all the Baltic and Eastern European peoples who live in fear of Russian aggression. I stand strongly in favor of democracy, the rule of law, and the territorial sovereignty and safety of independent countries in the face of subversion, threats of invasion, and — in the case of Ukraine—actual invasion by the Russian military. My fundamental belief in these principles will not be swayed by political winds in the United States. I have expressed alarm at any hints of warming to Russia under Vladimir Putin and many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have joined in expressing concern and doubt as well. I have faith that my colleagues who have been supportive of Ukraine in the past will continue to be.
Additionally, it is clear that we cannot back down in our support for democratic countries in the face of Russian aggression. At the mere hint that President Trump would take a softer stance towards Russia, we have seen pro-Russian forces emboldened and renew fighting in places like Avdiyivka in Eastern Ukraine.
The Torn Curtain 1991: Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2014, almost three years ago. That’s half the duration of World War II. Why do you think the free world’s combined response has been so lukewarm? Should the free world condemn Putin like it did Hitler seven decades ago?
Senator Menendez: My own response, along with many of my colleagues, to Russia’s destabilization of the post-war order was strong and decisive. In 2014, I led co-sponsorship of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which imposed sanctions on individuals and companies that contributed to instability in Ukraine or provided support for Russia’s invasion. The legislation also authorized military assistance directly to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. Internationally, several of Ukraine’s Eastern European neighbors certainly understand how Russia’s aggression threatens the sovereignty and territorial integrity of independent nations at large. However, I do believe the world must indeed do more to condemn and counter Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. We must have a united front to counter Putin’s overarching strategy of dividing and fracturing the Western alliance system. We must apply the lessons that bullying must be met with steadfast resolve. Division must be met with unity amongst the nations of the free world.
The Torn Curtain 1991: President Poroshenko and Ukrainian Americans are urging the White House and Congress to send lethal weapons to Ukraine and other tangible assistance under HR 5094. Do you favor that and how will it help Ukraine?
Senator Menendez: The United States must support Ukraine as the endangered and embattled democracy that it is. When I visited Ukraine and met with President Poroshenko at the height of Russia’s invasion, I committed to using my voice, my influence, and my vote to do everything possible to assist Ukrainians, both in terms of resisting further Russian military advances and rebuilding the country’s shaken economy and institutions under attack. I authored legislation in 2014 that authorized military assistance to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression and I maintain that is the correct approach, when necessary, coupled with material, economic and non-lethal assistance. I also sponsored the STAND for Ukraine Act in the Senate at the end of last Congress. I believe it is in the fundamental national security interests of the United States to protect and defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and to send a clear signal around the world that those facing aggression will have a strong friend in the United States.
The Torn Curtain 1991: The Minsk truce that Russia signed and violated numerous times is not bringing Russia’s war against Ukraine closer to a conclusion. Are sanctions the only effective way to force Moscow to withdraw from all occupied regions of Ukraine – Crimea and Donbas? Should Russia also be banned from the global table until it does?
Senator Menendez: Sanctions can be the most powerful and peaceful leverage we have in our arsenal of diplomatic tools. Sanctions must be coupled with resolve and a credible threat of stronger actions. We must not roll back sanctions against Russia until Russia proves it is a willing partner in the global international order, respects the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors, and stops international provocation. Last month, in fact, my colleagues and I introduced the Countering Russian Hostilities Act, which would expand sanctions on Russia for its continued occupation of Ukraine, for its interference in our own electoral process, and provide support for those in its immediate sphere.
The Torn Curtain 1991: Are you concerned that Vladimir Putin will escalate the war against Ukraine with a major westward push toward Kyiv, Lviv and even Vilnius or Warsaw?
Senator Menendez: We must take Russian aggression and threats of aggression seriously. Russian forces continue to amass along the border of these countries, and reports show that they could move with some swiftness across the border of these countries. We must support Eastern European countries as they enhance their militaries, and protect critical infrastructure, both physical and cyber. Additionally, as the Countering Russian Hostilities Act does, we must provide support for democratic institutions, public diplomacy efforts that support a free press and the free flow of information in the face of Russian disinformation campaigns aimed to disrupt and undermine democratic governance structures and institutions.
The Torn Curtain 1991: As Ukraine transitions from a Soviet mentality, the government and population still endure a corrupt mindset. How can the United States help Ukraine overcome corruption without harming its ability to successfully defend itself against Russian aggression?
Senator Menendez: Governance institutions that promote democracy, the rule of law, and a free and reliable press are the foundations of a strong country everywhere in the world. A democratically elected government with a robust judicial system and media in which all citizens place faith will be a critical component of countering Russian aggression. These institutions also help promote stable economic development, which will be critical for building a wealthy society where citizens are secure, and help maintain support for a capable and robust military presence. Russia will only be more successful in penetrating Ukrainian society if Ukrainians have reason to turn on their own institutions as not supportive of the people and their aspirations.
Despite President Trump’s doubtful support for any legislation critical of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, several elected officials have stood up against Russia’s global threats and aggression.
Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) today responded to the news that Trump has eased sanctions on Russia imposed by President Obama in the wake of cyberattacks during the 2016 election, warning that such a move would bolster Putin’s illegal occupation of Ukrainian Crimea.
“After the worst escalation in two years by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Trump Administration has inexplicably decided to reward this behavior by easing sanctions imposed on Russia for their cyberattacks here in the United States,” Pascrell said. “This move will only strengthen Mr. Putin’s grip on Crimea, emboldening his decision to destabilize the region and contribute to the thousands of civilian deaths in Ukraine. The Congress must hold hearings and quickly respond by passing legislation to tighten sanctions on the Russians and prevent any further weakening by this Administration.”
Pascrell said for someone like Trump, who “purports to be the ultimate dealmaker,” lifting sanctions prematurely is “raw deal.” The Congressman said President Trump should stand up for American allies like Ukraine, “not cozy up to those who have meddled in our elections and continue to cause chaos around the world.”
Also today, Congressional Ukrainian Caucus Co-Chairs, Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Sander Levin (D-MI), issued the following statement on the escalation of Russian military assault against Ukraine.
“We call on Russia-controlled separatists to immediately stop the violence in Eastern Ukraine, honor the ceasefire, and withdraw heavy weapons. We reaffirm our support for the Minsk accords, and stand in strong opposition to all efforts that would encourage military action against Ukraine.
“As Co-Chairs of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, we are deeply concerned with loss of life and the deteriorating humanitarian condition in Avdiyivka, in eastern Ukraine, since heavy fighting broke out on January 28. According to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), at least eight people have died in the last three days, and 17,000 civilians, including 2,500 children, do not have access to water, electricity, or heat in below freezing temperatures. With each continued day of fighting, their condition becomes more dire.
“The United States must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our European allies and with the Ukraine people, who have demonstrated time and again their will for a sovereign and democratic country, free from Russia’s interference. We strongly urge Russian authorities to respect human life and abide by the ceasefire.”
Russia Escalates War vs Ukraine; Kyiv Calls it War Criminal
Russia has dramatically escalated its military campaign against Ukraine over the weekend, leading to one of the deadliest outbreaks in fighting in the eastern oblasts since mid-December.
At least seven Ukrainian soldiers were killed in battle with pro-Russian terrorists, according to Ukrainian military reports, prompting Kyiv to decry Russia as a war criminal.
“The situation in the Avdiyivka industrial zone is challenging. The enemy continues to fire at our positions with heavy artillery and mortars,” Ukrainian military spokesman Col. Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said at a regular daily briefing.
The deadly uptick in fighting comes a week after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States and the threat of a dangerous détente between Washington and Moscow that could relegate Ukraine to a vassal region in Russia’s renewed prison of nations.
Russia’s intensified attacks against Ukrainian positions caught the x-captive nations and the free world by surprise, prompting President Petro Poroshenko to cut short his visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In a statement about Russia’s latest violation of the ceasefire agreement, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “deep concern” and called on allies to step up pressure on Moscow to abide by the truce.
The rebels began attacking government positions in the eastern frontline town of Avdiyivka on Sunday, January 29, Ukrainian officials said.
“According to tentative information, five Ukrainian troops were killed and 14 were wounded in action in the past 24 hours. The Ukrainian troops incurred almost all the losses in the heavy fighting in Avdiyivka,” Motuzyanyk said on Monday. The toll has since grown.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has killed some 10,000 since it began in three years ago this February, according to the UN Human Rights Office.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said during the talks with injured servicemen at a Lviv military hospital that the operational situation in the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) area in Donbas remains complicated, but at the same time the Ukrainian troops managed to seize a strategically significant outpost during the battle in the Avdiyivka area.
“Today there is a serious aggravation in the Avdiyivka area: in the morning the terrorist groups started the shelling, then, two groups of the hostiles comprising 25-30 people each launched assault actions on our positions. At one of the positions this attack was stopped by the armed forces servicemen, on the second one our servicemen went into the offensive and seized an important outpost, which has strategic significance. Our servicemen, unfortunately, sustained some losses. The situation in the ATO area is thorny, but controllable,” the ministry press service quoted Poltorak as saying.
Ukrainian military officials accused the Russian mercenaries of using tanks and grad multiple grenade launchers and said they recorded intensified fighting all along the front line — outside the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, in the south of the front-line north of Mariupol and west of Luhansk. The grad launcher is among heavy-caliber weapons that should have been pulled back from the front line under a 2015 truce between the warring parties.
In the Mariupol sector, 20 shells were fired from BM-21 grad rocket launchers on Ukrainian army positions near Talakivka, the staff said on Facebook on Monday morning. Vodiane came under attack of a Grad P rocket launcher, 122mm artillery, mortars of various calibers, grenade launchers and small arms, it said.
According to the staff, the hostiles fired 122 mm artillery on Lybidynske, mortars on Krasnohorivka, and grenade launchers and small arms on Hnutove, Pavlopil, Shyrokyne and Krasnohorivka, and engaged armored personnel carriers and infantry combat vehicles in Shyrokyne.
Two onslaughts were mounted near Avdiyivka in the Donetsk sector but the enemy troops “suffered casualties and had to retreat,” it said. Mortars of various calibers were fired on Verkhniotoretske, Avdiyivka, Opytne, Luhanske, Zaitseve and Kamyanka on Sunday. “Tanks shelled Novhorodske and Pisky,” it said.
The militants fired mortars and grenade launchers on Novo-Oleksandrivka, Troyitske, Popasna and Novozvanivka in the Luhansk sector, it said.
Ukraine and NATO accuse the Kremlin of supporting the rebels with troops and weapons. The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia over the war, as well as for its occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
With Trump considering dropping the White House’s support for punitive sanctions against Russia, Ukrainian officials, the former captive nations, the European Union, the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and other friends of Ukrainian on Capitol Hill will be stepping up efforts to mobilize support for maintaining global sanctions against the Kremlin until it surrenders occupied Ukrainian regions and withdraws its troops and mercenaries to Russia.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:
“Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry expresses deep concern over the intensification of the Russian-terrorist forces in Donbas.
“For the last two days, the Russian occupation forces carried out massive attacks across the contact line using all available weapons, including MLRS ‘grad,’ artillery of 152 mm and 122 mm, mortars of 120 and 82 mm, tanks, all prohibited by the Minsk agreements, and small arms. The Russian weapon has killed 8 Ukrainian soldiers and has left 26 wounded.
“Civilians suffer because of the shelling of the residential areas: 2 civilians have been wounded. The cities of Yasinovata and Avdiyivka were fully cut off from electricity by shelling. More than 400,000 peaceful civilians in the region have no access to water, electricity and heating. Given harsh weather conditions and the continuing shelling by the militants, the humanitarian situation in the area continues to deteriorate.
“Such actions of the Kremlin may qualify as a war crime, a gross violation of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, an unlawful, wanton and extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity.
“Obviously, the current escalation in Donbas is a clear indication of Russia’s continued blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk agreements with a view of preventing the stabilization of the situation and achieving any progress in the security and humanitarian spheres.
“We demand from the Russian Federation to cease hostilities immediately and to comply strictly with the ceasefire.
“We request our international partners to step up political and diplomatic pressure on the Kremlin to stop this dangerous escalation in Donbas and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.”
With Russia continuing to violate truce accords and escalating its war against Ukraine, and behaving like a war criminal, Kyiv has no other recourse except to sever diplomatic relations with Russia and arrest all Russian diplomats in Ukraine.
The White Housemust not contemplate establishing good relations with the Kremlin as it deepens its bloodshed in Ukraine. The US must not partner with a country and its leader that emulate Nazi Germany’s bloody behavior.