Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sentsov, Ukrainian in Russian Prison, Declares Indefinite Hunger Strike
Ukrainians have been down this torturous path many times during the past millennia as Russia has threateningly hovered over the nation, voraciously clawing at its independence, sovereignty and national identity.
Fortunately, the Ukrainian nation has been blessed with many heroic role models. The men and women in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who today are heroically defending their country and nation from Russian invaders, are the visible war heroes that are leaving a valiant legacy for the younger generation.
Oleh Sentsov, a 42-year-old Ukrainian filmmaker who was born in Crimea, is this generation’s gallant symbol of resolute national, non-military resistance to Russian aggression and oppression.
Sentsov’s fate is part of the never-ending chronicle of Russia’s cruelty against Ukrainians, destruction of their culture and language, and its mission to subjugate regardless of who is in power in the Kremlin.

Looking back the pages of recent history, the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia, came to an end on February 23. Five days later, Russia declared war on regional peace and security. Moscow escalated achieving its prime objective of re-subjugating Ukraine by invading and occupying the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, an act that was not impulsive but rather required months of logistical preparations while Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin junta cynically smiled and shook hands with gullible global leaders. You recall the scene from “The Godfather,” when Michael Corleone renounced satan in church while his hoods killed his enemies.
Thus began the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18, which also enveloped eastern Ukraine. The United Nations and the free world have condemned Moscow’s belligerence.
Sentsov, a Ukrainian and Crimean patriot, immediately joined the civilian movement to oppose Russia’s illegal occupation of his native region, which culminated with Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Sentsov and his colleagues organized a massive pro-Ukrainian unity demonstration in Simferopol in hopes of preventing Russia’s plans for an illicit coup d’état. Civil activists observed that the event was poignantly described as a Day of Crimean Resistance given the huge price paid by the Crimean Tatar leaders and other Ukrainians who peacefully stood in defense of Ukraine on that day and in subsequent weeks and months as Russian soldiers and paramilitaries seized control of Crimea. Much like Nazi Germany seized Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavian nations and other countries.
The list of activists and those arrested is long, and includes Sentsov, human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku and a number of Crimean Tatars active in the Crimea Solidarity movement, which arose to help the ever-increasing number of political prisoners in Crimea and their families. It also includes three other opponents of Russia’s invasion and annexation: civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasyev and Oleksiy Chyrniy.  All four were held incommunicado for up to three weeks, first in Simferopol, then in Moscow, almost certainly to hide the torture marks, according to their colleagues.
They were officially charged with terrorism and brought to a typical Russian show trial – or kangaroo court as it has been known throughout history. Stalin used them effectively to kill his opponents. The Crimean defendants’ case was one of the first of many attempted fake trials of Ukrainians, and was clearly aimed at justifying Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea by depicting Ukrainians as terrorists.
There was undeniably no evidence of terrorism and plans to commit violent crimes against the occupying regime. Nonetheless Moscow needed not only to punish them but to remove them from public view. But by incarcerating and exiling them, as it’s done many times in the past, the Kremlin ironically turned them into visible heroes, beacons for today’s generation. 
The FSB, the KGB’s successor, had imposed a regime of total secrecy until the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko began in the summer of 2015. It became clear from the first day that the prosecution had no real evidence so on August 5, 2015, the Memorial Human Rights Center declared both Sentsov and Kolchenko to be political prisoners. It later made the same statement about Afanasyev, who was returned to Ukraine as part of an exchange, on health grounds.
Russia had also unlawfully declared that both men automatically became Russian citizens with its occupation of Crimea, and denied them access to the Ukrainian consul and their rights under international law.
Sentsov spoke of the torture he was subjected to since the start of his illegal incarceration.  He was told by the FSB that if he didn’t give testimony and confess as it demanded, he would be sentenced to 20 years and “rot in prison.”
Sentsov was recognized for his bravery under fire by being awarded the Andrei Sakharov Award for Courage, along with two other Ukrainians facing Russian persecution: journalists Mykola Semena and Roman Sushchenko.  The award is well-deserved in all cases but regarded as especially fitting given Sentsov’s powerful final address to the kangaroo court in Russia.  In those final words that will resonate loudly for many generations, Sentsov emphasized that he was not asking the Russian court for justice, as “a trial by occupiers cannot be just.”
In order to silence Sentsov and keep him isolated from public view, Russia transferred him to an infamous prison north of the Arctic Circle, as far from journalists and foreign representatives as the Kremlin could achieve. Apparently that notorious penal venue did not disappear with the death of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Putin keeps its gates open today and global leaders should remember that as they prepare to shake hands with him.
The sentences imposed on Sentsov, Kolchenko, Ruslan Zeytullaev, Mykola Karpyuk, Stanislav Klykh and many other Ukrainians are comparable to those used to silence opponents throughout Russian history.  Furthermore, they are applied against Ukrainians held thousands of kilometers from their families, in most of the cases because Russia wants to silence protest during its occupation of Ukrainian territories.
In addition to the Sakharov award, Sentsov was honored with the PEN America / Barbey Freedom to Write Award in 2016. In an enormously emotional letter in response to the award, Sentsov wrote:
“The last time I went to the Maidan, where people had already begun perishing, my mother said, ‘Why are you going there? You have two children!’ I answered that it was precisely because of that that I was going there—I don’t want them to live in a country of slaves. We won then, but it proved not to be the end. And the struggle continues, but now without me. I’m in prison and like any prisoner it is very difficult for me to answer a simple childish question: ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’”
Sentsov is the father of two. His actions were intended to defend Ukrainian Crimea and Crimean Tatars from Russian subjugation but also to ensure that future Ukrainian generations would live in an independent Ukraine.
In 2016 his suffering was compounded when his wife decided to divorce with him, as the status of a wife of a political prisoner in Crimea deprives her of the opportunity to take out a mortgage and to buy a home for herself and two children.
Russian persecution of Sentsov pushed him to the precipice. His latest protest against Russian repression is a hunger strike that he began on Monday, May 14, in defense not of himself but of his fellow Ukrainian political inmates. Russia has imprisoned 64 Ukrainian national activists in occupied Crimea and Russia. 
According to his lawyer, Sentsov had been preparing for the hunger strike for about a month and a half by refusing to receive food parcels, avoiding the prison colony’s store, consuming thin broth and the minimum amount of food, preparing his body for starving. Sentsov sent a letter to the chief of the colony about his protest and the conditions for ending it.
In a handwritten Russian and Ukrainian-language note, he declared: “I, Oleh Sentsov, a Ukrainian citizen, sentenced illegally by a Russian court and held in a prison colony in Labytnangi, have declared a hunger strike, beginning 14 May 2018. My sole demand is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held in the Russian Federation. Together and to the end.  Glory to Ukraine!”
Ukrainian political prisoners always brought something of their own personal protest to the Russian concentration camps but throughout the ages all of them have shared the same battle cry “Glory to Ukraine!” – “Slava Ukrayini!”
Sentsov’s plight in Russian incarceration in the second decade of the 21st century harkens back to the 1970s, when an earlier generation of Ukrainian patriots fell victim to Russian repression.
Words by Valentyn Moroz, who spent 145 days on a hunger strike, at the conclusion of his trial still resound: “This is a heavy burden. To rot behind bars is not easy. Yet to have no respect for oneself, is even more difficult! And so we will fight! There will be a trial and all will begin again: new protests and petitions, more news stories for the world radio and press. Interest in Moroz’s writings will increase tenfold. Fresh fuel will be poured onto the fire - the very same fire you are trying to extinguish! Even this statement is subversive. But do not blame me for this ‘crime.’ I was not the one to jail Moroz. It was not I who threw the boomerang.”
Vasyl Stus’ words also come to mind: “I do not know when death will come for the others, but I personally feel it approaching. How good it is that I have no fear of dying.”
Stus was the fourth Ukrainian national activist to die in Soviet Russian custody in 28 months. His death followed that of his fellow Ukrainian Helsinki Group member Oleksiy Tykhy, by Yuriy Lytvyn, who committed suicide while serving his fourth term in prison, and by Valeriy Marchenko, whose kidneys failed him soon after he was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp.
Just like Sentsov, who couldn’t tolerate Russian aggression, persecution and occupation, so too couldn’t Stus who declared: “To be a Soviet citizen means to be a slave. I am not fit for such a role. The more I am tortured and abused, the greater is my resistance to my slavery and to the system of abuse of a man and his elementary rights.”
The US Department of State has urged Russia to immediately release all Ukrainian political prisoners. Spokesperson Heather Nauert stated on Twitter: “The United States stands with Oleh Sentsov and calls on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners immediately.”
Sensing the perilous situation faced by Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin declared at a recent ministerial session of the Council of Europe that he’d start speaking about the Ukrainian hostages of the Kremlin. “It’s not about politics anymore, it’s about the lives and destinies of people. Oleh Sentsov has declared an indefinite hunger strike demanding release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia. Volodymyr Balukh, Uzeir Abdullaev, dozens of others in critical conditions, tortured by the Kremlin. Raise your voice to stop the Kremlin's tyranny!”
Indeed, we, in the free world, must also raise our voices to stop Russia’s tyranny.
Show your support for Ukrainian political prisoners by sending them a letter, which they regard as “a breath of freedom.”
Letters of support to Sentsov should be addressed:
РФ, 629400 Ямало-Ненецкий автономный округ, город Лабытнанги, улица Северная 33.
Сенцову Олегу Геннадьевичу, 1976 г.р.
[Russian Federation, 629400, Yamalo-Nenetsky autonomous okrug, Labytnangi, Severnaya St, 33
Sentsov, Oleh Hennadievych, b. 1976]
Letters to Oleksandr Kolchenko should be addressed:
РФ,  456612, Челябинская обл., Копейск, ул. Кемеровская, 20.,
Кольченко Александру Олександровичу, 1989 г.р.
[Russian Federation, 456612, Chelyabinsk obl., Kopeisk, Kemerovskaya St, 20
Kolchenko, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, 1989]
Inform your senators and congressmen about the plight of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and ask them to demand that Russia immediately release them and evacuate its invading army from Ukraine.
Sports fans, soccer officials and players, and sponsors bear in mind the kind of country and regime that you are supporting by attending the World Cup 2018. Respect yourselves and Ukrainian political prisoners by boycotting the tournament.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The World Knows What Russia’s been Doing, and …
In recent weeks, Russia has been subjected to a series of justified condemnations by the international community for invading two regions of Ukraine and turning them into its occupied territories, where danger and death await innocent Ukrainians at every intersection, and generally accepted freedoms and human rights are absent.
It seems as if Ukraine has finally come of age and has been accepted by Euro-Atlantic political structures – with sympathy but in a non-voting capacity.
Comparing global public support for Ukraine before the start of the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18 and now, it has noticeably skyrocketed. Not surprisingly, the free world is pushing Ukraine to the front lines while hiding behind its back in hopes that it can stave off a massive invasion by Russia that will sweep across Europe. It is sacrificing Ukraine on the altar of world peace.
However, as with many things regarding Ukraine, the devil is in the execution. Will condemnation remain a linguistic exercise or will the international community create a policy and plan that will force Moscow to change its ways? Will the free world put their money where their mouths are?
Let’s review what happened in recent weeks.
Last month, in Canada, the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations (G7) agreed to join forces to help Ukraine oppose Russian aggression, confirmed Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. Thanks for this gesture of support but merely opposing Russian aggression is not nearly enough to expel Russia from Ukraine.
“The main result is that they [G7 countries] regard the aggression against Ukraine as the aggression against the entire civilized world. All the participants stated this very clearly. We also agreed to join forces to repel this aggression,” Klimkin was quoted as saying. Yes, Ukraine is the first line of defense.
“We agreed to think about some formats, how to increase the role of G7 in repelling these threats and in further facilitating the reforms. I cannot disclose some ideas as they are under consideration of the (G7) presidency, but I think they will be promoted in a couple of months,” he said.
G7 observers noted that this global group has finally come around to getting off the fence and acknowledging that a war is raging in Europe. A war that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are singlehandedly fighting to protect itself and the world from Moscow’s aggression. United steps to help Ukraine expel Russian invaders from its country are still sometime in the future.
Klimkin observed on his Facebook page: “There was a feeling that Ukraine is a part of this community and the challenges that confront us today are challenges to our common values. We spoke about everything from the occupation of Crimea and Donbas to Ukrainian hostages illegally held in Russia.”
John Sullivan of the US State Department met with Klimkin in Toronto and “reaffirmed the US support for the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression,” according to a statement from the US State Department.
Those are strong words that shouldn’t be bandied about pointlessly. They are also surprising coming from an administration whose Chief Executive, President Trump, is not an overt advocate of Ukraine. The rhetorical question is Washington prepared to add substance to those words has since then been answered with America’s delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. That’s certainly welcome, concrete military aid.
In conversations with his colleagues, Klimkin compared Ukraine to a petri dish for testing Russia’s belligerent policies and military strategies.
“Fundamentally, Ukraine is perceived by many and also by Russia as a sort of test range for testing Russian nonconventional warfare – hybrid war,” Klimkin said.
He called this part of a bigger war “against the democratic transatlantic community.” Supporting Ukraine, he said, should be seen “as a part of a bigger pattern. Fighting along with Ukraine would give an immense asset to the whole democratic community in the sense of understanding Russian efforts to destabilize the western world.”
Indeed, Ukraine, its soldiers and people are defending Europe, the US, Canada and the free world from a global Russian invasion. They’re amassing battlefield experience which could help allies in the future.
In their joint communique, the G7 Foreign Ministers announced they are prepared to step up economic sanctions against Russia if the conflict in eastern Ukraine, escalates. Economic sanctions are imperative in combatting Russian aggression.
“We recall that the duration of Donbas-related economic sanctions is clearly linked to Russia’s complete and irreversible implementation of the Minsk Agreements. These sanctions can be rolled back only if Russia truly fulfills its commitments, but we also stand ready to take further restrictive measures should Russia's actions so require,” the G7 Foreign Ministers said. “We are convinced that the only way a sustainable solution to the conflict can be reached is through the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Given Russia’s responsibility in the conflict, we urge Russia to stabilize the security situation in the Donbas without delay.”
In Europe, the Strasbourg-based Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also last month adopted a resolution recognizing that Russia is in fact occupying the territories of eastern Ukraine that are not controlled by the government in Kyiv.
The pan-European lawmakers almost unanimously supported the two amendments in the consideration of the Ukrainian bloc. In particular, the fact that the uncontrolled territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are “temporarily occupied territories controlled by the Russian occupation administration.” Amendments were supported by 98-100 MPs, and 3-4 voted against, among which were the German “Left,” “Alternative for Germany” and the Netherlands Socialist Party. Leftists will never learn.
Additionally, in its resolution, PACE to its credit condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine, stating it committed in violation of international humanitarian law.
“Russia is an occupier,” beamed PACE Vice President Volodymyr Ariev on Facebook. “The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a decision recognizing certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions occupied by the Russian Federation. This is the victory of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE, which in the long term will increase Russia's responsibility for violating the norms of international law.”
At a NATO meeting in late April in Brussels Russia’s war mongering was also top of mind. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the primary focus of the session was what he called Moscow’s “dangerous behavior.”
“This includes the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, the destabilization of eastern Ukraine, meddling in democratic processes, cyberattacks and disinformation,” Stoltenberg listed.
In Washington, which has more pro-Ukrainian officials than pro-Russian ones, the State Department last month labeled Russia and China threats to global stability, saying that their poor human rights records put the countries, the United States’ principle strategic rivals, in the same ranks as Iran and North Korea.
“The Russian government continues to quash dissent and civil society even while it invades its neighbors and undermines the sovereignty of Western nations,” John Sullivan said in remarks as the State Department released its annual report on global human rights in 2017.
For the record, on top of these latest expressions of condemnation against Russia, the United Nations also had officially denounced Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, as an “occupier” of foreign lands just like Nazi Germany and other tyrannical empires were – my clarification.
The 71st General Assembly adopted on Monday, December 19, 2016, a resolution on human rights in Crimea, titled “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine),” which was initiated by Ukraine and supported by the UNGA Third Committee. Seventy-three UN member-states, including Ukraine, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and others backed the document, 76 abstained, and Russia plus 22 others voted against it.
The resolution cited four times the word “occupier” in relation to Russia’s enslavement of Crimea.
Most importantly, the resolution condemned “the temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine —the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (hereinafter “Crimea”) — by the Russian Federation.” It also notably reaffirmed its “non-recognition” of Russia’s unlawful annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea after a fabricated and rigged referendum.
With so much public recognition of Russia’s crimes against Ukraine and disruption of the world order, why do so many self-respecting national leaders and statesmen continue to extend their hands to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev and others from their junta?
The world acknowledges what Russia has been doing, which is a first step, but is it prepared to address seriously this criminal state? Condemning Russia hardly affects the Kremlin’s activities but it does confirm support for the just cause of Ukraine and the other x-captive nations. The UN resolutions, Minsk Accords and UN Peacekeepers are laughable suggestions that will not bring peace, stability and security to Ukraine. For that to occur, Russia must be subdued and expelled from Ukraine. Stricter sanctions and banning Russia from global events may help.
Ultimately, Nazi Germany changed its ways and became a democratic country only after Nazi Germany was destroyed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Support Holodomor Resolution S.Res. 435
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), co-chairs of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, known for their staunch support for Ukraine, introduced on March 14 a resolution on marking the 85th anniversary of the Russian mass murder by famine of 7-10 million Ukrainians.
When adopted, the resolution would commemorate the anniversary of the Holodomor and recognize the Moscow’s role in perpetrating this genocide.
According to the Ukrainian National Information Service in Washington, DC, the resolution builds on a number of congressional actions to condemn the Holodomor and honor its victims, including the 2015 dedication of the Holodomor Memorial in Washington, D.C. Portman and Durbin were joined in introducing this resolution by a bipartisan group of Senators including Senators Inhofe (R-OK), Casey (D-PA), Rubio (R-FL), Gardner (R-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Wicker (R-MS), Brown (D-OH), Johnson (R-WI), Murphy (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN), and Shaheen (D-NH).  
“This important resolution honors the memory of the millions of Ukrainians who suffered under the Soviets’ policy of using starvation as a weapon to try to break the independence and identity of the Ukrainian nation,” Portman said. “As Ukraine continues to fight today to defend its independence and sovereignty in the face of Russia aggression, this resolution serves as an even more important reminder of the horrible atrocities inflicted upon Ukraine and the perseverance of a people whose spirit cannot be broken.”
“Ukraine’s famine is an ugly chapter in world history, in which millions of civilians died at the hands of the Soviet Union’s cruel policies,” Durbin said. “As a co-chair of the Senate’s Ukraine Caucus, I am proud to introduce this resolution to raise awareness in our country of this mass tragedy. We remember the victims of the famine who were killed and support the efforts of the Ukrainian people to bring global awareness to it, particularly as the world confronts Russian aggression today. We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims, survivors, and families of this tragedy.”
Senator Bob Menendez (R-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added this observation about the Holodomor commemoration:
 “I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Holodomor resolution, which reminds the world of the famine experienced by the Ukrainian people at the hand of repressive Soviet policies. I will continue to stand with the Ukrainian community, including the large and thriving diaspora in New Jersey, in ensuring we never forget this senseless tragedy that took the lives of millions.  As we look back, we must also focus on the present day tragedy unfolding in Donbas and the illegal Russian occupation of Crimea. The international community must redouble its efforts to support the people of Ukraine today in the face of ongoing military aggression from Moscow.” 
History has recorded numerous Russian crimes against the Ukrainian nation as well as other freedom-loving peoples around the world. However, the 1932-33 Russian murder by starvation of millions of Ukrainian men, women and children was a key element of the Moscow’s age-old bloody strategy to break Ukraine as a nation, defeat its push for independence, and fully subordinate it to Moscow’s rule or simply wipe it off the face of the earth.
The resolution would commemorate the anniversary of the Holodomor and recognize the Kremlin’s premeditated role in perpetrating it, building off of the recent dedication of the Holodomor monument in Washington, DC.
The Ukrainian National Information Service urges the Ukrainian American community to contact your senators and urge them to co-sponsor S.Res. 435.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

‘If only We had Listened’
Humanity’s most unfortunate and pathetic expression of frustration can be summed up in phrase “If only we had listened.”
Those words imply, at least, that the information was readily available but overlooked or rejected.
The latest manifestation of this lament came from Max Boot, a columnist for The Washington Post.
“Russia has been waging war on the West for at least 10 years, and the West hasn’t bothered to notice,” Boot wrote in his March 15 column.
The newspaper’s headline for his commentary screamed a similar admission: “Russia has been waging war on the West for years. We just haven’t noticed.”
Why did the West, otherwise known as the free world, the fraternity of non-Soviet, non-communist decent countries, turn a deaf ear and blind eye to Russian aggression?
Citing a laundry list of the Kremlin’s crimes, Boot pointed out that Russia’s war didn’t directly target American, Canadian or British cities with bombs, soldiers and tanks.
“Moscow’s kind of war is more subtle and yet all the more effective — precisely because it does not compel an overwhelming response. The war arguably began in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia, a pro-Western country that sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and was anxious to join NATO. Rather than punishing Vladimir Putin for his aggression, the Obama administration later responded with a ‘reset’ of relations. Putin was emboldened to aggress again: In 2014, his ‘little green men’ — uniformed Russian soldiers with their insignia removed — invaded Ukraine. He annexed Crimea and turned eastern Ukraine into a Russian proxy state. This time the United States and Europe did respond with sanctions — but not strongly enough to dissuade him,” he wrote.
Is it too late to deter Putin from escalating his war against Ukraine and the West? Normal avenues such as pleas, summits, negotiations, ceasefires, threats and probably sanctions have run their course. Russian armies and their mercenary terrorists have not retreated from Ukraine to Russia. Putin and the Kremlin regime – the official portion as well as the oligarchic unofficial one – haven’t yet felt enough pain to submit to Western demands. On the contrary, Russia has escalated its worldwide aggression by killing innocent men, women and children in Syria. But is the West noticing?
The free world’s primary failing in dealing with Russia is not acknowledging or comprehending the perpetuation of global belligerence, violence and death that stretches from one Russian regime to the next. Realistically, there is no difference among tsarist, soviet-communist and today’s federal varieties of Russian leaderships. Each Russian era’s leader eagerly adopted the mission of expanding or restoring the so-called “glory of holy mother Russia” by way of global aggression, subversion and domination. To be sure, the Kremlin’s cyber invasion of the United States is part of that plan.
Consequently, since policies do not change from one Russian leader to the next and from one Russian regime to the next, the Russian national mindset has taken for granted that global domination, world belligerence and violence will rebuild its righteous empire. Furthermore, since the Russian people do not oppose these policies, they have also bought into their leaders’ vision.
At the end of World War Two, when Russia seized significant portions of Europe as its spoils of war, liberation leaders of the captive nations warned the free world that Russia will not be satisfied with its conquests by default and will spread its tentacles around the world. They also said the captive nations would continue to fight Russian imperialism – as they did with uprisings in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czecho-Slovakia – until Moscow is vanquished. The West didn’t notice.
The peaceful human rights movement in Ukraine and elsewhere wasn’t only meant to promote free speech. It was a national liberation war against Russian imperialism conducted by non-military means. Again the West didn’t notice.
Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists who was assassinated by a Moscow agent using a poison gas pistol in 1959, was among the captive nations’ liberation leaders who continued the war of independence against Russian imperialism. The Central Intelligence Agency declassified on January 17, 2017, some 930,000 documents from the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST), which includes an interview with Bandera by a Cologne German radio station in 1954. In it Bandera succinctly described what Russian imperialism is about.
“The ultimate end of the Bolshevik policy is to destroy the peculiar substance of the Ukrainian people in every respect, and to drown the Ukrainian people in the sea of the so-called Soviet people or, rather, in the modern form of the Russian imperialism devouring other people. In this way, Ukraine would allegedly turn into one of the Russian provinces. However, the Bolsheviks dare not speak openly of that end and pursue it in a straight way. On the contrary, they are compelled to apply very complicated means, and even to retreat in some fields. Russia is compelled to do so, on the one hand, by the firm attitude of the whole Ukrainian people in its fight against the Russian imperialism and communism and the revolutionary fight of the Ukrainian nationalistic liberation movement, and on the other hand, by the numerical strength of the Ukrainian people and the universal potential of Ukraine. The striving for independence of the Ukrainian people has not been broken by Russia either by means of mass liquidation of the national cadres or by the unheard-of terrorizing of the whole Ukrainian people, which were carried on by the Soviets from the year 1930 to World War II by means of an artificial famine, mass deportations and executions. Besides terrorizing all opponents of Bolshevism, Russia is trying to apply new tactics: to change the striving for independence of the Ukrainian people into Soviet patriotism. Those tactics manifest themselves especially in today’s Soviet propaganda which recently began to emphasize the role of Ukraine as the second in size Soviet republic, to emphasize the grandeur of the Ukrainian people, the weight of the Ukrainian culture and Ukraine and its people in general.”
Bandera also said at the time:
“The Ukrainian liberation fight is a component of the general liberation fight of all peoples enslaved by Russian imperialism. In our opinion, Bolshevism is only one of the forms of the traditional Russian imperialism. In our fight against the Russian-Bolshevik imperialism, we consider ourselves an ally of all the freedom-loving nations. We offered resistance to the Russian-Bolshevik imperialism in the past, we are opposing it now and we shall oppose it in the future.”
The West didn’t notice. Were the warnings uncomfortable or incredulous to free world leaders? Why didn’t free world leaders subscribe to Ronald Reagan’s characterization of Russia being the evil empire?
Contemporary warnings about Russian hostility have also been overlooked, leaving quizzical expressions on victims, officials and perpetrators.
Maksym Savanevsky, managing partner of PlusOne, founder of and co-founder of Ukrainian Crisis Media Center, in an article posted on his website in May 2015 warned Facebook that it was being hacked by Russian trolls.
He wrote that due to Russian subversion, Facebook in Ukraine has eliminated pro-Ukraine account holders, information and photographs. “Facebook has lost its well-deserved status of a place of freedom for Ukrainians…We believe this is exactly the tactics used by the infamous Russia’s troll factories against Ukrainian civil society to silence its voice…This catastrophic and unprecedented amount shows that Ukraine needs your special attention and assistance in establishing a rapid response to counteract this Russia’s special force brigade(s) on Facebook,” Savanevsky wrote.
The West, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t notice.
Fulfilling its “mein kampf,” Russia invaded Ukraine in the winter of 2014 and is still waging a brutal war to subjugate the nation. Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, General Stepan Poltorak and others have urgently raised the storm warning flags to signal a global Russian blitzkrieg. Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius have joined this chorus of concerned x-captive nations. The West is finally beginning to notice and hopefully will throw its weight in defense of Ukraine and the x-captive nations while shielding itself from harm’s way.
As it strives to develop a practical policy of dealing with Russia and save itself from Moscow’s ruthlessness, the free world would be prudent to admit its past and present lapses in judgment about Moscow’s danger, and accept Russia for the criminal state that it is. Then, short of launching a missile attack against it, the free world should also intensify sanctions against Russian government and business leaders until the pain is felt by every citizen.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Four Years after Enslaving Crimea, Russia Still Flouts Free World
Unexpectedly and hours after Winter Olympic flame was snuffed in Sochi, Russia, Russian soldiers landed on the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula, seized the entire territory, and annexed it after a fabricated referendum thus turning it into an enslaved land.
The invasion and occupation immediately violated numerous international covenants and the UN Charter. Russia’s belligerence has been condemned by the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other free world countries. Sanctions have been enacted and renewed against Russian leaders and oligarchs. The latest round, including travel restrictions and asset freezes against 150 people and 38 companies, would be extended until September 15, the European Council said.
Has Putin been swayed to change his ways? In reply to such a question, the Russian fuhrer basically said “hell, no.”
Putin declared in a two-hour documentary “Putin” aired on March 18 that under no circumstances would he give Crimea back to Ukraine.
“What, have you gone mad?” he told a journalist who asked him if there were any circumstances under which the Russian leader would be ready to give up Crimea.
“There are no such circumstances and never will be,” he declared obnoxiously.
As for liberal-minded Russians, unsuccessful presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who wanted to campaign during last weekend’s presidential campaign in occupied Crimea, said the Ukrainian peninsula remains a difficult problem for Russia and will have to be dealt with by the upcoming generation of Russians. However, since Russian youth favor Putin and his despotism, it would be folly to depend on that demographic for any resolution.
So much for liberal-minded Russians.
Despite President Trump’s tepid support for Ukraine, his cabinet remains committed to Ukraine and has asserted that sanctions will remain as long as Russian soldiers occupy the peninsula.
US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch said Washington will not recognize the Russian presidential elections in annexed Crimea.
“I think [it will be the same] as with all the elections in the Crimea…the way we treated these elections in the past is that we did not recognize them,” Yovanovitch said.
The State Department reaffirmed last week that the US continues to consider the Crimean peninsula as a part of Ukraine, not Russia.
Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and spokesperson Heather Nauert condemned a political rally Russian President Vladimir Putin held in Crimea where he claimed Crimea to be a part of Russia. Nauert blasted the 2014 referendum in Crimea as to whether the region should join Russia. The “staged referendum,” as Nauert called it, remains controversial as Russian troops were occupying the peninsula at the time and few international observers were present.
“In light of Putin’s remarks, it is important to call attention to the illegitimacy of the staged ‘referendum,’ but also to the tremendous human costs the Russian government has imposed on the people of Crimea,” Nauert said in a statement.
The Department official said during the past four years, Russia has engaged in a campaign of coercion and violence, targeting anyone opposed to its attempted annexation. She said Russian occupation authorities have subjected Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, pro-Ukrainian activists, civil society members, and independent journalists to politically motivated prosecution and ongoing repression, while methodically suppressing nongovernmental organizations and independent media outlets.
The global wave of condemnation against Russia continues to grow. The EUObserver published a column titled “Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea” written by eight foreign ministers, namely Anders Samuelsen of Denmark, Sven Mikser of Estonia, Edgars Rinkevics of Latvia, Linas Linkevicius of Lithuania, Jacek Czaputowicz of Poland, Teodor-Viorel Melescanu of Romania, Margot Wallstroem of Sweden, and Pavlo Klimkin of Ukraine.
“Four years ago, on March 18, 2014, Russia took the final step to illegally occupy Crimea, a part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory that Russia had recognized as such in several international treaties. The Russian takeover comprised a series of equally illegal actions: from using disguised Russian elite troops to the hasty organization – in breach of Ukrainian and international law – of an illegitimate ‘referendum,” they wrote.
On March 1, the Ukrainian parliament called on the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as the OSCE, the European Union, NATO, international organizations, and foreign parliaments and governments, not to recognize the legitimacy of the Russian elections in the Crimea.
As for Putin’s so-called reelection, the United States and European countries have not yet congratulated the victor.
Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, President of the Security Council and UN membership pointed out that Russian presidential elections in the occupied Crimea violate the UN Charter. The outcome of such illegal elections will be null and void, he said.
The issue of Russian aggression against Ukraine, be it in the Crimean peninsula or the eastern oblasts, remains to be addressed fully by the free world. Will it be content with ineffective but welcome condemnations and sanctions? Hopefully not. Procrastination will only give Russia time and opportunities to increase its military capabilities to expand its aggression against other regions.
The free world must also seriously take into consideration Moscow’s efforts to deploy nuclear weapons in Crimea. Deputy Head of Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Olena Zerkal has said Russia continues to upgrade military infrastructure in occupied Crimea to deploy nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
“We are seeing an accelerated pace of modernization in Crimea, which has already changed the balance of security in the region,” she said at a special meeting of the UN Security Council on the situation in Crimea on March 15. “Russia has more than doubled its armed forces on the peninsula and is taking further steps to upgrade Crimean-based military infrastructure to deploy nuclear weapons.”
The free world, led by the United States, Canada, Great Britain and other likeminded countries, must increase efforts to isolate Russia for its unabashed aggression.
Two years ago The United Nations officially condemned Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, as an “occupier” of foreign lands just like Nazi Germany and other tyrannical empires were.
What is significant about this resolution is that while Ukraine, the United States and a few other countries favorably inclined toward Ukraine have condemned Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea, the UN resolution casts a different light on this crime. Just like the albatross in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Russia, the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin have been publically stigmatized as global lawbreakers for current and future generations to see.
The international community must also appreciate that an occupier is a state that has crossed international frontiers without consideration of laws, invaded a foreign land, and willfully seized land that didn’t belong to it.
This resolution sends a clear message to Russia and Putin that as “occupying authorities” they are responsible for the persecutions and violations of the human rights of the residents of Crimea and will be brought to justice.
The free world is honor bound to take action to fix the situation. This resolution also gives it the basis upon which to further isolate Russia and ban it from global events until it changes it belligerence behavior.
Ukraine has appealed to the European Union to recognize the Russian Federation an aggressor state, strengthen Russia sanctions, and take up a key role in deploying a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas, according to a draft by the Ukrainian side ahead of the EU Foreign Affairs Council scheduled for March 19 where the Ukraine issue will be on the agenda.
In the draft, which was presented to UNIAN and circulated in Brussels ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Kyiv has proposed a number of proposals for the bloc in case Brussels is committed to strengthening its support for Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. After four years of Russian aggression against Ukraine, Kyiv expects that the EU “will recognize Russia as an aggressor country and an occupation power. The EU will significantly strengthen the restrictive measures of individual and economic nature against Russia, including preventing EU companies from cooperating with Russia in the military sphere. The EU sanctions should be leveled up to the US sanctions to form the integral transatlantic sanctions regime. They must be kept until sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is fully restored, including Crimea.”
The only way, short of a joint military campaign, to force Russia into withdrawing from Crimea and Donbas and abandoning its campaign for global domination is for the free world unite behind Kyiv’s efforts to suspend commerce with it, expel all of its diplomats and businessmen and declare Moscow a pariah, outcast, and criminal country.
Otherwise, be prepared to encounter Russian troops on your doorsteps.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Russia Creates another Ecological Catastrophe in Ukraine
War – hybrid or not – wreaks havoc on the lives of people. Sometimes it seems the dead have escaped the worse. Not only are soldiers killed and maimed, but civilians also bear brunt of invader’s killing machine. Cities, villages and country sides are covered with dead bodies, and buildings, schools and homes are destroyed or converted into useless testimonies of enemy aggression.
And then there is the ecological destruction of war. The Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18 has been raging in eastern Ukraine for more than four years and its toll on the environment is becoming devastatingly apparent.
Ukrainian network Hromadske TV has prepared a documentary about this subject, in which it shows sinkholes in Donetsk and nearby towns, rivers laced with nitrogen and heavy metals, contaminated drinking water, and risk of disease. The TV news station says all of this may happen in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in the next five to 15 years.
“Donbas is the world’s most industrialized region and currently a warzone. Wide swaths of the region, formerly a center of mining and industry, are now occupied by Russia-led separatists. Over a million people have already been displaced by the war in Ukraine. If this ecological catastrophe comes to pass, at least 2.5 million more could be forced to flee both Ukrainian government-controlled and separatist-held territories,” Hromadske reported.
Russia has not decreased the intensity of its never-ending war against Ukraine. Quite the opposite, it has expanded it in order to bring the nation to its knees and subjugate it once again. Aggression, invasion, occupation, subjugation, repression, persecution, imprisonment, Russification and Chornobyl have been the hallmarks of its centuries-long campaign against Ukraine. And now – ecological contamination.
Russia has facetiously signed a host of international agreements, including the UN Charter, which it mocks by violating its principles. Now add to that trough of broken agreements the UN Sustainable Development Goals that are intended to improve life on this planet.
UN member-states agreed to abide by the tenets of the goals while Russia has premeditatedly chosen to violate them and endanger the lives of Ukrainians as well as the natural environment in eastern Ukraine.
“And the ecological crisis bearing down on eastern Ukraine could have significant implications for Russia and the broader Azov and Black Sea region,” Hromadske TV said.
This special documentary by Hromadske presents scientists’ scenarios of how ecological disaster could unfold in the Donbas. It also articulates ways this catastrophe can be prevented. The television network pointed out that its goal is not to scare, but to warn the public about the potential consequences if the world does not act now.
It’s not only about Ukraine and Donbas. As the recently found 131-year-old message in a bottle testified, we are all connected across miles and generations.
Protests this Russian crime against humanity must be addressed to the appropriate United Nations and European Union offices.
You can view the documentary here:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Don’t Help a Bloody Dictator Stay in Power
For all intents and purposes, the United States has finally publically admitted that Russia willfully invaded Ukraine and is waging a bloody war against it.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, among other high-level US officials, emphatically declared as much when he said the United States will never accept trading one region of Ukraine for another in its policy towards “Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.” Putting aside his reference to conflict rather than war, Sullivan confirms that Ukrainian territory was illegally seized and occupied by Russia. That’s a violation of international law and the UN Charter.
“Given the high stakes, it’s important to be clear about US policy towards the conflict: Crimea is Ukraine. The Donbas is Ukraine. We will never accept trading one region of Ukraine for another. We will never make a deal about Ukraine without Ukraine,” Sullivan said.
His demonstrated Washington’s strong commitment to Ukraine and cast a dark shadow on Russia’s claims that it isn’t involved in the war in Ukraine. The welcome declaration is also a warning to Moscow that its subjugation of Ukrainian territory will not be forever.
Sullivan assured that the US would continue to stand with Ukraine until there is an end to Russian aggression. That is the goal that the world must pursue. Russian aggression must be ended not by a freezing of frontlines or assets but by Russia’s withdrawal, expulsion or retreat from Ukraine.
“We will continue to draw on the range of measures we have at our disposal, including diplomacy, sanctions, and security assistance," he said.
In Sullivan’s hopeful words, a stable democratic, prosperous and free Ukraine will be less vulnerable to external threats and serve as a beacon to other nations facing Russian aggression. “A free and economically successful Ukraine is one of the Kremlin’s biggest fears – and it is the Ukrainian people’s greatest hope,” he added.
An economically successful Ukraine will have more allies and trading partners standing by it. However, as for keeping Russia from invading Ukraine, that threat will always exist due to the Kremlin’s belligerent nature.
Sullivan’s comments were echoed by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who accused Russia of stoking the “conflict” in Ukraine by disregarding its commitments under the hapless peace accords.
Nauert said in a statement on February 13 that Russia continues to deny in the face of insoluble evidence to the contrary its direct involvement in the war that erupted after the 2014 Winter Olympics and has seen more than 10,300 people killed.
“Sadly, Russia continues to disregard its commitments under the Minsk agreements, stoking a hot conflict in Ukraine,” the statement said.
“The United States takes this opportunity to reiterate that our sanctions will remain in place until Russia fully implements its commitments under the Minsk agreements. Our separate Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine,” she added.
Ceasefire deals announced as part of the Minsk accords in September 2014 and February 2015 aimed to resolve the conflict but have drastically failed due to Russia’s continued violations. Ukrainian soldiers are being wounded or killed in action daily bringing the total up to nearly 4,000. It’s a waste of time and effort to go on meeting and hoping for a truce.
Fortunately, National Security and Defense Council’s Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov has left the door open to other options. “We are not saying that today we can liberate the occupied territory solely through the use of force. But this law does not rule such a path out and creates conditions for it,” Turchynov said in an interview with the television station Hromadske.
Sanctions are practical means of forcing Russia to cease its invasion of Ukraine but, strangely, its rulers and oligarchs keep getting richer and shed violence and death in Syria.
The tragic upshot is that the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18 has entered its fifth year and the free world is not any closer to helping Ukraine expel Russian invaders from its land. But it must do so to keep the war from expanding into new Europe and then old Europe.
At least the international community is not in denial about Russia’s role in the invasion and war. The United Nations and a recent law adopted by the parliament of Ukraine have termed Russia an aggressor state in Ukraine.
Paraphrasing the late President Ronald Reagan’s historic epithet about Russia being the evil empire, President Petro Poroshenko recently expanded the notion by saying “evil resides in the Kremlin.”
“Let us acknowledge that we failed to take it seriously, when in 2007 in Munich the Russian president declared his war on the civilized world. The Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014 has become the most serious and cynical assault against democratic values and the international rules-based order. It had been plotted well in advance. And when the plot was activated, it involved many agents,” he said.
“But even worse is the fact that these activities are accompanied by massive militarization of the Russian regime and its proven readiness to use any military tools available, including nuclear weapons,” he added.
The free world must heed this warning about Russia’s militarization. Currently, Ukraine is the only country on earth that has combat experience fighting Russian invaders. The x-captive nations of the Baltic regions have also been warning about Russia’s interminable aggression and desire to rebuild and expand its empire. Be mindful of this as well.
The groundswell of opinions about stronger actions in support of Ukraine is increasing. In a letter to the editor of The Washington Times, retired Marine Corp Lt. Col. Dominik George Nargele observed: “Ukraine stopped the Russian invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas without any significant help from western countries, and it is dealing with its 1.6 million refugees by itself. The best way forward for western allies is to liberate occupied Ukraine from the foreign Russian invaders and provide massive Marshall Plan aid to Ukraine to help the internally displaced return to their homes. Europeans who are not helping Ukraine are helping Putin stay in power.”
The free world should remember that with every day that the war lingers and another Ukrainian soldier is killed defending his or her country it is helping the Kremlin’s bloody dictator of the evil Russian empire stay in power.