Saturday, June 3, 2017

Senator Booker Commits to Helping Ukraine Repel Russian Invaders
After avoiding for four years since coming to the Senate expressing his point of view on Ukraine and Russia, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has finally taken to heart the issues that have led to the latest war in Europe.
Earlier, on behalf of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Ukrainian National Information Service, I spoke with Booker’s staffers, Steven Fernandez and Emma Corrado, about his indecision, the vital importance of supporting Ukraine, and the disappointment his hesitation is causing Ukrainian American voters. They didn’t reject my opinions. On the other hand, they sought to convince me that the Senator prefers to gather as much information on the issues as he can before making any statement. They sounded genuinely supportive.
At the same time, they didn’t reveal that plans were under way for Booker to travel on a fact-finding journey to Poland and Ukraine in order to assess firsthand what is the situation on the ground. That trip in final days of May became an epiphany for the junior senator from New Jersey.
Though he’s a latecomer to growing team of advocates for Ukraine, Booker’s maiden policy declarations on US-Ukraine relations and Russian aggression have shown him to be as ardent in his pro-Ukraine beliefs as are veteran champions on Capitol Hill.
“I am going to do everything I can as a Senator to keep the urgency alive. We must stand with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters to repel Russian aggression,” Booker pledged during a call-in news conference from his Newark office yesterday afternoon.
In Poland and Ukraine, Booker met with government officials and frontline soldiers and witnessed their dedication to defending Ukraine from Russian aggression. He learned of the former captive nations’ efforts to defend themselves from Russian threats. He heard Eastern European leaders appeal for US support for its allies in the region in what he called a global battle against Russian assaults on democracy. He discovered that Russia is threatening peace and security around the world. And he got it about the important role that the United States and NATO can play in making the world better.
“This Senator will be fixed in the fight against Russian hybrid activities,” he said. “That’s the fight and it can’t become a forgotten war. It must in the forefront.”
The New Jersey lawmaker explained that based on what he observed the war in Ukraine cannot be considered local. Using words that other US officials have used in describing America’s support for Ukraine, Booker said several times that the war is everyone’s mutual, righteous cause.
“Everyone in the region knows that if Russia is successful in undermining Ukraine and changing its western focus, which the heroes of Maidan fought and died for, if we don’t make sure that the Ukrainian people prevail in their quest for democracy and freedom, and we lose there, then it’s going to directly impact on our ability to preserve western democracy,” he said.
“The fight is not just a Ukrainian fight. It’s an American fight. It’s a European fight. It’s a fight for Western democracy.”
Years ago, during the days of the evil soviet empire, President Reagan, at a White House conference with Ukrainian Americans, also assured the attendees that Ukraine’s fight for freedom and independence is America’s fight and we shall prevail.
Booker said the former captive nations such as Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are on the frontline of defending the world. Specifically, Booker said Poland’s role in helping the US preserve security in Europe is critical. “Poland is a critical link to our overall efforts in Eastern Europe. Our alliance with Poland is essential to contain Russian aggression and its hybrid war,” he said.
Beyond recognizing the criminal nature of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the three-year war, Booker has taken to heart the need to implement assertive policies that would save democracy. He understands that Russia’s undeclared war against Ukraine is an attempt to undermine the country’s society and democratic institutions, and to subvert democracy in Europe and the world.
Using as an example Moscow’s dirty tricks during the 2016 President Elections, Booker said the United States is also in danger. He called for the congressional investigations into Russia’s broad crimes against America to be convened as soon as possible, noting that European allies expressed concern to him that Washington isn’t treating seriously Russian threats.
Booker elaborated that Russia’s hybrid war in Ukraine, coupled with its propaganda campaigns and intrusions into the internal affairs of sovereign democracies “drive the point home that this is a larger, concerted effort by Russia to undermine democratic institutions in Western democracies.”
Booker said in these dangerous times the US cannot shirk is global responsibilities. Criticizing President Trump for not providing strong support to US allies in Europe and NATO, he called the White House’s foreign policy and budget “disastrous.” He believes that a strong US foreign policy will help create peace in troubled areas and make America great.
“We are essential players on the global stage. It’s not just about fighting problems for other nations but preventing those problems from becoming crises for us,” Booker observed.
Booker supports providing Ukraine with arms to defend itself from Russian aggression, but he admitted that more is required.
“There’s a lot of work to do. We have to stay focused on this fight,” he exhorted Americans.
As a combatant of a larger battle, Booker said America must respond with strength, which is the only trait that Russian President Putin understands.
“If we do not respond, we will encourage Russia to do more. That’s why I’ll be fighting to strengthen and increase sanctions on Russia. Russia has violated international norms and laws, violated the sovereignty of independent countries. These actions must be condemned by all,” he said.

Booker’s views and conclusions may not be original, but the fresh passion with which he expressed them may hopefully inspire Washington to abandon the White House’s misguided policy on Russia and Ukraine.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Russia Targets Children’s Welfare
A recent United Nations statistic about child abuse reveals another Russian premeditated violation of an internationally recognized principle.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated on April 7 that more than 200,000 Ukrainian children – about 25% of the population in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine – are severely affected by Russia’s armed invasion. Consequently, they require urgent and sustained psychosocial support to address their traumatic experiences.
That’s two hundred thousand. Not a few, or a dozen or a couple of hundred. This incredible number of traumatized children is part of the 1.7 million internally displaced Ukrainians due to Moscow’s latest imperialistic campaign against Ukraine. More than 70 children have been killed since the start of the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17.
“The world has forgotten about this invisible crisis in eastern Ukraine, but hundreds of thousands of children are paying a heavy price, one that could last a lifetime without adequate support,” observed UNICEF Ukraine Representative Giovanna Barberis. She emphasized the urgent need for funding to reach these traumatized children – not to mention qualified medical attention.
These children live within 15 kilometers of each side of the “contact-line” that divides the areas controlled by Ukrainian soldiers and Russian terrorists, where fighting is most intense.
In the fall of 2015, the UN member-states, including Ukraine, the US and Russia, adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are expected to make life on this planet better for everyone. Included among the 17 principles is No. 16, which addresses the fate of children.
“Various forms of violence against children are pervasive, including discipline that relies on physical punishment and psychological aggression. In all but 7 of 73 countries and areas with available survey data from 2005 to 2015, more than half of children between the ages of 1 and 14 were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment at home,” it states while calling on governments to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, torture and all forms of violence against children.
This is yet another crime against humanity coldheartedly committed by Russia within eyesight of the United Nations, its member-states, UNICEF and other agencies that have been established to protect children.
Barberis said the children live in constant fear and uncertainty due to sporadic shelling, unpredictable fighting and dangers from landmines and other unexploded ordinance. Many of them risk their safety to get an education because schools have been targeted by Russian invaders. Seven schools were damaged during the most recent escalation of violence in February and March, and more than 740 schools, or one in five, in eastern Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed since the war began in 2014, the UN said.
Furthermore, parents, teachers, school directors and psychologists continue to report striking behavior changes in children as young as three years old. Symptoms include severe anxiety, bed-wetting, nightmares, aggressive behavior and withdrawing from families and communities.
In appealing for $31.2 million to support these children and their families, Barberis said, “Children should not have to live with the emotional scars from a conflict they had no part in creating. Additional support is needed now so that young people in Donetsk and Luhansk can grow into healthy adults and rebuild their communities.”
Russia’s abuse of child welfare extends beyond Donbas. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported that Russian child abuse is also visible in occupied Crimea.
“On the third anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, at least 30 Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians are imprisoned on politically motivated charges and others are facing trial for saying that Russia must leave Crimea.  69 children are growing up without fathers who have been arrested, or abducted and murdered.  The above alone would be compelling reason for rejecting any deals with Russia or removal of sanctions before Crimea is returned to Ukraine.  There are many others,” the human rights organization noted.
“There are at present 69 children whose fathers have been arrested and taken away on fabricated charges. Many of them have themselves been traumatized when armed and masked men burst into their home and took their father away in handcuffs.
“The children often wait in the court building, hoping to see their father if he is brought to the court for detention hearings. It is known that some children have been terrorized by FSB (Russian federal police) officers turning up and, for example, telling them that their father will face years in prison.”
Meanwhile, in a blood-curdling act of Russian cynicism, the occupiers have used children as propaganda tools: “A choreographed performance with children dancing about with machine guns was perhaps the most shocking part of the state-organized festivities in Russian-occupied Crimea, marking the third anniversary of Russia’s annexation.”
In a recent tweet on SDG 16, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, observed frustratedly: “Target 16.2 SDGs calls on governments to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, torture and all forms of violence against children. Time to act.”
Indeed, with a rising tide of Russian crimes against humanity, the international community must act to restore at least a semblance of global law and order and respect for morality and human rights. As it has done many times in the past, the free world should single-mindedly mobilize its efforts to rid the world of this law-breaking menace.
The legal and moral mechanisms are in place for such a crusade about liberty, human rights, Russian aggression, child welfare, peace, stability and security.
Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, at the signing ceremony of the Paris Accords on sustainability and Agenda 2030 about a year ago, reminded the world about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the devastation it is creating: “The Russian military invasion in Eastern Ukraine had affected negatively natural resources and biodiversity through habitat destruction and fragmentation, increased pollution of land and water. Despite all challenges we are facing, Ukraine remains firmly committed to its international obligations.”
The SDGs deal with more than climate change and global warming. The 17 principles give freedom-loving NGOs in the UN system and around the world, the Permanent Missions of the former captive nations and their allies, as well as concurring stakeholders the opportunity to initiate a conversation about creating a global partnership that would foster and preserve sustainable freedom, liberty, democracy, human rights, stability and peace for future generations

They must also sanction, condemn, reject and isolate Russia for its criminal belligerence so that future generations know that the free world had tried to protect civilization’s most vulnerable segment  – children.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ukrainian Youth Strike a Blow against Hate Crimes
Hate crimes are repulsive and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, anywhere. Hate crimes are painful when they occur close to home because they tend to cast an accusatory pall over everyone. They are painful and detestable when they occur with impunity in Ukraine, whose culture and diaspora have been targets of persecution and hate crimes in Russia.
The term hate crime came into common usage in the United States during the 1980s but it’s not endemic to America. It pertains to the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability.
A recent example of a hate crime against Jews in Ukraine occurred a couple of weeks ago in the western Ukrainian city of Ternopil. Ironically, a similar wrongdoing took place at the same time in Greece though the two incidents were not related.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), among others, wrote about the vile desecration of a Holocaust memorial on the south side of Ternopil. The agency wrote on March 27:
“Nazi symbols were spray-painted on a monument to Holocaust victims in Ukraine that was erected near their mass graves.
“The letter X was painted on the Star of David emblazoned on the monument near the western city of Ternopil. A swastika was drawn on the Hebrew-language section of the monument and the SS symbol on the part in English.
“Police have no suspects in connection with the incident, which occurred earlier this month.
Eduard Dolinsky, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, described the vandalism in a post Friday on Facebook.”
The JTA focused merely on this odious crime in its news story. But it failed to do an appropriate follow up, which would have revealed a bright side to this story. Members of the Ternopil branch of the Ukrainian Youth Association took it upon themselves to clean the Holocaust monument, thereby contributing in a little way to eradicate the ugly face of hate crimes and blow away the accompanying cloud of civic apathy.
The Ukrainian Youth Association, known by its Ukrainian-language acronym “CYM,” was established in Ukraine in 1925. Its leadership was annihilated during Stalin’s wave of terror against the Ukrainian nation and, consequently, the membership dissolved or went underground. The organization was revived in Western Europe after World War II, in 1946, and in the United States in 1949.
It finally returned to Ukraine after the re-establishment of national independence in 1991 to resume its civic work of raising national awareness. The Ternopil branch was formed in 1995.
Learning about their righteous effort in a brief post on Facebook, I contacted the head of the branch, Lesia Holyk, for details.
Lesia told me that Volodymyr Birchak, a member who is a historian and journalist, told her about the desecrated Holocaust memorial.
The monument is located in a section of Ternopil, which was the site a Jewish cemetery. According to local memory, the graveyard was bulldozed in the 1950s to make way for new residential housing.
Lesia said the membership didn’t know if common hooligans, drunkards or Russian provocateurs vandalized the shrine.
“The only thing that we were sure of was that we had to undertake this task before the week starts. From Friday morning, when we first learned of the graffiti, to Sunday, when we began the work, we had had enough time to prepare,” she recalled.
Four members of the organization participated in the cleanup: Andriy Pushkar, Vitaliy Dziubak, Maksym Pushkar and Lesia.
“When the adults couldn’t reach to the top of the monument, my father placed me on his shoulders and I cleaned the paint from the highest spots,” Maksym explained. (See photo)
Due to the material of the monument and the consistency of the paint, the job was difficult but the stalwart youth resorted to trial and error to determine the right cleanser. Ultimately, they found that a regular kitchen Brillo-type scrubbing pad, some water and muscle worked best. Lesia said the cleanup took less than an hour and soon the youth resumed their Sunday membership activities.
“We believe that youth must be actively involved in resolving these situations because this is our history, our memory and our responsibility,” Vitaliy opined.

At a time when youth is depicted as delinquents, destroying public and private property, the members of the Ternopil branch of the Ukrainian Youth Association clearly set the bar of decency at a higher level. However, even in independent Ukraine, their brave and selfless gesture could leave the youth at the mercy of the vandals regardless of who they are. The “CYM” members’ deed may not be worthy of a “Righteous Gentile” distinction, but in the annals of combating ethnic hatred, their scrubbing pad, some water and courage deserve proper recognition and a hardy well done.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Selling out Ukraine won’t Appease Russia
Russia’s unstoppable quest to subjugate Ukraine and the other x-captive nations won’t diminish in the event that Moscow achieves its mission.
There are other imperialistic opportunities for the Kremlin and that doesn’t bode well for global peace, stability and security.
Consequently, there is no reason for world leaders to cower behind the immoral thinking that surrendering Ukraine to Russia will satisfy its pursuit of global domination. It is far better for future generations and their peace, stability and security to subdue Russia – or bring it to heel – today.
It has been my premise since launching The Torn Curtain 1991 that Russia doesn’t alter its manifest destiny regardless of who occupies The Kremlin. Russia has been demonstrably aggressive and belligerent against its neighbors during the days of the tsars, Soviet commissars and today’s leadership headed by Vladimir Putin. Today, his criminal behavior against neighboring countries and Russia’s citizens confirm the ongoing dangerous nature of Russia.
Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin, in an article The Guardian of Great Britain, warned the free world about Russia’s pursuit of domination:
“Russia’s appetite for hegemony does not stop with Ukraine. It greedily eyes other former states and satellites of the Soviet Union, and more broadly seeks to destabilize and divide the rest of Europe and the wider transatlantic alliance,” Klimkin wrote.
The Ukrainian official emphasized that Russia presents the “greatest threat” to the security and unity of Europe since the end of World War II. By implication, the free world should recognize that the front line of its defense is in eastern Ukraine, where the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17 is raging.
“There can be no talk of lifting sanctions until Russia is brought to heel and persuaded to comply with international rules. And sanctions hurt Russia more than the Kremlin cares to admit. They are slowly reducing Russia’s ability to destabilize Europe and the world,” he wrote.
Klimkin explained that central to Russia’s imperialistic nature is its definition of the “Russian World.” Much like Hitler’s “Volksdeutsche,” Putin and other Russian despots annexed into their concept of the Russia World all countries that they sought to enslave. On that basis Russia formed the involuntary, ominous fraternity known as the captive nations.
Ukraine persisted in fulfilling its aspirations of moving west while Russia warned Kyiv to cease dreaming of becoming a part of the European Union and, God forbid, NATO. Finally, the straw that broke Moscow’s back was the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity that ousted its gauleiter Viktor Yanukovych.
“It was more than Russia could stomach. It subsequently illegally annexed Crimea and invaded Donbas in support of the so-called ‘People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk,’ which my government believes to be little more than a mixture of terrorist and criminal organizations,” Klimkin opined.
He also pointed out two obvious Russian traits that world leaders overlook. One is that Moscow can’t be trusted and the other is that it breaks its promises.
“Few in my country could have envisaged the consequences when in 1994 Ukraine gave up the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, under guarantees protecting its territorial integrity from the UK, US and Russia. By annexing Crimea and invading Donbas Russia has spat on that historic document, the Budapest memorandum, which Ukraine signed up to in good faith to make the world a safer place. And 20 years on, Russia has not honored a single clause of the Minsk agreement that they signed in an effort to bring about a resolution to the war in Donbas, in which 10,000 of our people have been killed and 23,000 wounded,” Klimkin wrote.
Klimkin’s characterization of a deceitful Russian leadership was echoed by Ambassador Nikki Haley, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who continues to denounce Moscow’s belligerence much like her predecessor, Samantha Power, did. Haley told NBC News: “Take it seriously. We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia.”
Russian leadership’s mindset is to rule from a position of superiority by taking advantage of its opponent’s weakness, said Klimkin, adding that all diplomats who have dealt with the Kremlin will admit that Moscow respects only power and should only be negotiated with from a position of strength and international solidarity.
“Russia exploits weakness. It does this in bilateral negotiations just as it surely exploits the weakness of the UN Security Council, where it abuses its right of veto as one of five permanent members,” Klimkin noted.
His earnest admonition to the free world is to “remain united in the face of the threat” and don’t blink first.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius has also cautioned about this Russian outlook in dealing with foreign and domestic issues.
Linkevičius observed that arguments such as “not to provoke” Russia and to act “in a pragmatic and responsible manner” are meaningless when applied to Moscow, which, ironically, is provoked to action by the free world’s inaction.
“As soon as we loosen the reins, the Kremlin sees it as a sign of our weakness, as another opportunity, or even an encouragement to act with more energy, to demand or negotiate on the new ground ‘gained,” the Lithuanian official said. “It’s like playing football, when Russians add elements of wrestling and rugby to it, and we adapt to it ‘pragmatically and responsibly,’” he noted.
Other political pundits see Putin’s latest criminal and warlike actions as precursors to an expanded invasion of Ukraine.
Columnist Paul Goble quoted Rabbi Avraam Shmulyevich, president of Israel’s Institute for Eastern Partnership, as saying: “Two terrible events in one day” – the murder in Kyiv of former Russian Duma member Denis Voronenkov and the blowing up of the Balakliya arms dump, the largest in Europe – may mean that the Russian tyrant has launched “a major diversion” in preparation for an expansion of his attacks on Ukraine.
The Israeli analyst opined that such diversions have often preceded Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere and that there are compelling reasons to think that he believes he can break Poroshenko’s government and put himself in line to advance on Kyiv.
“In any Western country, such events, even more when they occur simultaneously would be sufficient to raise the issue of trust in all ministers of the force block and even the head of government because such things in a normally organized country cannot be allowed by definition,” Shmulyevich said.
As I have written in the past, America’s foreign policy paralysis sparked by President Donald Trump’s benevolent view of Putin is one basis for Moscow’s brazen military preparations.
Goble indicated that if Putin is following such a game plan, then Shmulyevich believes that it is only because he is “certain that America is paralyzed and Ukraine will be afraid to respond in an adequate manner” or will be unable to do so because of fundamental problems within its own government apparatus.
Russia won’t always resort to outright armed invasions in order to expand its empire. Moscow is capable of subtle subterfuge as well. The former president of Estonia predicted last week that Europe will be the “main battlefield” for Russian disinformation campaigns to influence Western elections this year. Such a battle plan could certainly fracture the European Union.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonia’s president from 2006-16, testified before the House Foreign Affairs committee that the Kremlin’s recent attempts to target European elections appear aimed at splitting up the European Union and NATO alliances along the lines of divide and conquer.
“Certainly the candidates who are being supported are ones who are anti-EU and anti-NATO. The most prominent, of course, in the key country of France, is Marine Le Pen,” Ilves said, referring to the leader of France's far-right National Front.
A special task force set up by the EU accused Russia in January of attempting to influence several crucial elections in Europe, including in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, through the dissemination of fake news. Ilves added that Italy also is at risk of Russian meddling during pre-term elections expected to be held this summer.
The Estonian politician, noting the election fraud accusations levied against Putin after his 2012 reelection, said Europe is at a disadvantage against Moscow given the “complete asymmetry” of the recent attacks.
“We can’t do to them what they do to us, meaning us in the West,” Ilves said. “Ultimately, if you’re the ones counting the votes in an authoritarian one-party state, you’re not going to influence the election.”
Not surprisingly, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in a speech to the European People’s Party Congress on March 29, bore witness to Russia’s expanding belligerence and called for a strong, resolute and uncompromising European leadership to subdue Moscow and preserve European unity.
Poroshenko said:
“The anti-EU forces are still on the move. Russia will do its utmost to push the EU off the cliff.  The Kremlin never gave up on attempts to build an ‘alternative’ Europe. For that to happen they will spread uncertainty and distrust in our societies. Divide et impera! (Divide and conquer) – This is an absolutely main and key principle. The Kremlin’s goal is to split Europe and to water down the values. As long as this goal stands – the idea of EU and Russia getting strong together is an illusion. You can’t get strong together with someone who has zero-sum thinking. And the Kremlin has only one rule: Russia must be on the top.” 
The Ukrainian president expressed his belief in a symbiotic relationship between a secure and prosperous Europe and a peaceful and stable Ukraine.
“Let’s unite our efforts in bringing Donbas and Crimea back to Ukraine and Russian aggressor out of Ukraine. It is not the crisis of misunderstanding. It is a crisis of two opposite concepts of Europe: either freedom or tyranny. Only one of them will survive in the end. Ukraine is on the edge of this struggle,” he remarked.
“Three years every single day Ukraine is fighting this hybrid war against Russian military, terrorists, propaganda, hackers, corruption and absolute deception. Despite losses, Ukraine will fight its double fight. First – to be free. Second – to become a better nation, worthy of Europe.”

There is more at stake in failing to bring Russia to heel today than Ukraine’s independence.

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:

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

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.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ambassador Haley’s Security Remarks, hmmm, Acceptable
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 of Avdiyivka. 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.