- · to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- · to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
- · to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- · to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.
Friday, August 18, 2017
72 UNGA Offers X-Captive Nations NGOs Ideas
For United Liberation Activism in UN
With the general debates at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly set to begin in about a month, member-states, NGOs and staff members are busy planning their workloads, meetings and projects for the good of humanity.
As a former staff member of UN DPI/NGO, I can attest that the thousands of bureaucrats with “P” and “S” grounds passes would rather be somewhere else than on the hectic eastside of Manhattan during the three weeks of speeches by presidents, kings, prime ministers and other national leaders. However, non-governmental organizations, one of the main pillars of the UN system along with member-states and staff, are primed to pick up their respectable projects where they left off last spring.
Nonetheless, it’ll be a time for planning, strategizing and coalition building for the next 12 months.
The thousands of NGOs around the world in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), associated with the Department of Public Information, or any other UN agency or program have their own favorite issues that they’ll be promoting as they ply the UN passageways. I’d like to return to a topic that I have addressed in the past: the role of Ukrainian NGOs at the UN.
Representatives of civil society from Ukraine and those from the Ukrainian diaspora have one moral task at the United Nations today: to continually expose Russia as a murderous, belligerent and deceitful member-state of the UN until all discussions throughout UN headquarters are abuzz with the thought that Russia does not deserve to have a seat on the Security Council and to walk the hallways of the UN.
The task will be difficult because Russian NGOs outnumber all Ukrainian NGOs by about 3-to-1 but not impossible. Ukrainian NGOs, with the help of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine, should mobilize a coalition of civil society representatives from the former captive nations as well as their Permanent Missions to champion this righteous cause.
To be sure, this coalition must be clever in how it addresses its mission. Fortunately, the United Nations Charter, resolutions and other documents are replete with references that can help this cause.
The Preamble to the UN Charter, for one, addresses the vital work of “we, the peoples” of the world in championing the four pillar causes of the UN: peace and security, human rights, rule of law and development. The Kremlin is violating with impunity these pillars as it wages war against Ukraine, with its belligerence around the world and transgressions inside its own country.
The Preamble also states that we, the peoples, are determined:
Russia’s bloodstained footprints are visible in these four points.
If these ideas aren’t enough, review the maiden address by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák as President of the upcoming 72nd UN General Assembly, in which he outlined six priorities for his one-year tenure: people, peace and prevention, migration, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate action, and human rights – they guide his work as an overarching principle.
“My fifth focus will be on human rights as an overarching principle guiding my work. There is no peace and development without respect for dignity and fundamental rights. Continued support to equality, including equal opportunities for genders will remain high in my activities,” Lajčák said.
Russia’s violations of a broad list of human rights in Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere are well documented and should be highlighted throughout the United Nations with appropriate references to the PGA’s comments.
The vaunted Sustainable Development Goals – 2030 Agenda: another resource of actionable ideas for NGOs with which to raise awareness about Russian crimes against humanity and hypocrisy.
The monumental and optimistic 2030 Agenda is not only about climate abuse and its expected deleterious effect on future generations. As with the previous Millennium Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda focuses on a wide range of climate, sustainability, education, gender, health, environment and human rights issues. Embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 principles and 140-plus subsidiary points are many references to the urgency of protecting human rights. Human rights include national rights and the fulfillment of the latter usually guarantees the former. Conventional wisdom states that this hopeful, comprehensive package will make life easier and better for future generations.
Among the numerous references to human rights, we find the following two salient passages that Russia hypocritically approved:
“We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; of respect for race, ethnicity and cultural diversity; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity. A world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation. A world in which every woman and girl enjoys full gender equality and all legal, social and economic barriers to their empowerment have been removed. A just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable are met.”
“We reaffirm the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international instruments relating to human rights and international law. We emphasize the responsibilities of all States, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.”
But with wars and sanctioned national malice, led by Russia, still plaguing the world, the obvious lack of global emphasis on these painful issues raises the question “what are the UN and global community thinking about?”
Will it benefit sustainable development to sweep national and ethnic prejudice, violence and wars under the carpet? Should Russia’s war against Ukraine and human rights violations against Ukrainians and minority groups be overlooked for the sake of implementing the 2030 Agenda, the UN Charter and UN resolutions? If Russia wages war and violates human rights with impunity, will it voluntarily abide by new climate regulations?
Of course not. That’s why Ukrainian and other former captive nations’ NGOs, as well as their Permanent Missions to the United Nations along with indigenous Crimean people, and relevant human rights, disarmament, women’s and youth groups have an opportunity to compel the UN and global community to remain focused on freedom, democracy, peace and stability by recognizing and punishing recidivist international aggressors like Russia.
President Poroshenko of Ukraine, speaking at the United Nations on the eve of the ratification of the 2030 Agenda in the fall of 2015, declared Ukraine’s support for the UN Development Agenda but poignantly said, “There will be no sustainable development without peace and freedom.” This deserves to serve as the appropriate mojo of this NGO movement.
Indeed, how can the global community be expected to evolve sustainably for the benefit of future generations when one outlaw member of the international community wages war against a neighboring state and violates human rights of its citizens?
Ukrainian and other former captive nations’ NGOs should take the initiative to build coalitions around these concepts, huddle outside conference rooms with other NGOs, pursue member-states, meet with UN correspondents, and organize frequent and regular conferences.
Issues advocated by the UN give freedom-loving NGOs in the UN system and beyond, the Permanent Missions of the former captive nations, and 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 while sanctioning Russia for its ongoing criminal belligerence.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin had also alluded to the urgency for such a far-reaching coalition. Outraged by the Russian invasion of his homeland, Klimkin had suggested the creation of a Coalition of Freedom – an updated Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations – to defend democracy and Western values in a troubled world.
“It is about security for everyone,” said Klimkin during an exclusive Fox News interview on the eve of the 69th UN General Assembly in 2014. “If someone in this interchangeable and intertwined world cannot feel secure, how can US citizens here feel secure?”
Klimkin explained that Ukraine is confronting a threat any nation can face, adding “we need a network of security.” His Coalition of Freedom would consist of “countries which are committed to freedom, to democratic values, where we are not talking about spheres of influence, but the values and real interests of democratic countries.”
I applauded his decision in my blog at the time. It should now serve as a call to action for Ukrainian and other x-captive nations NGOs at the UN to raise the political battle against Russia to a unified, global level.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Georgian Officer, Embedded with Ukrainian Army,
Tells of Ukraine’s Latest War of Liberation vs Russia
Though many American and other Western pundits write that the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17 has evolved into an unknown or forgotten war, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is still raging and claiming the lives of defenders and civilians. Russia is forging westward in a bold attempt to repair the torn curtain and restore its prison of nations.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Lt. Mamuka Mamulashvili of the Georgian Army, a warrior with the Georgian Legion, and a former political adviser to the Minister of Defense of Georgia, about his experiences on the front line defending Ukraine’s independence. Mamulashvili, who was in the United States in the late spring, expressed his praise for Ukrainian soldier’s military skills and ability to defend their homeland. He also said Russian imperialism is not an aberration of a single tyrant, President Vladimir Putin, but it is a national mentality. After all, Russians do support Putin in this war against Ukraine.
Mamulashvili also concurred with my question about the urgent need for the former captive nations to establish a common bloc against Russian aggression as they did in 1947 when they formed the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations.
Following is the transcript of the interview:
The Torn Curtain 1991: You began in the military fighting for the independence of your native Georgia and now you are fighting for the independence of Ukraine. Why has this also become your mission?
Lieutenant Mamulashvili: In 1990s, Ukraine was the only country, which openly supported Georgia. There were more than a hundred of Ukrainian volunteers, who fought for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Georgia. Today, we owe the Ukrainian people and are standing at their side.
How many non-Ukrainians are fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces and from where?
There are more than 30 foreigners fighting for Ukraine, 30 men of different nationalities in addition to Georgian. Those soldiers are from USA, Germany, Australia, France, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Chechnya, Russia, Armenia and others.
Is Russia a never-ending imperial threat to all former captive nations, the region and the world? Will it ever change? If Putin is deposed, will his successor also be an imperialist?
Russian imperialism is not only a threat to the former Soviet captive nations but also is a danger to European and world security, because Russia is one of the main financial supporters of terroristic organizations. It is not going to change because it’s the mentality of the people and Putin has all the support of a majority of the Russian population in his aggressive actions. Imperialism is not a mentality of a single man but unfortunately of the whole nation.
Does anyone in Ukraine and Russia still believe that the Russian war in Ukraine is a local separatist conflict instigated by Russian speakers in Donbas? Do people understand that the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-17 is the direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
Yes, most of the Ukrainian population is informed about what’s going on in the country and is aware that it’s not just a local, internal conflict in Ukraine.
How many troops and equipment does Russia have stationed in Ukraine?
There are more than 30,000 Russian soldiers on the front line. Russia has stationed more than 3,000 armored vehicles (SAU) and heavy artillery weapons.
The former captive nations support thoroughly Ukraine in its war against Russia. Why is it so difficult for the free world to support Ukraine on the same level?
Ukraine doesn’t get that much support but some former Soviet captive nations support Ukraine, for example, Georgia and the Baltic countries. Though, unfortunately, most European countries haven’t set a solid position about the Russian-Ukrainian war. Unfortunately, a lot of European politicians have commercial interests in Russia and they don’t see or they don’t want to see the real danger in today’s invasion of an independent state.
How do you rate the military skills of the Armed Forces of Ukraine including its regular army, National Guard and independent battalions?
There are no independent battalions left. National Guard forces are not effective in the war zone because they have no experience, they have less experience than military forces, and they are more concentrated on police functions around the war zone. Ukrainian Armed Forces today have undergone an evolution and have the greatest experience in direct combat. In my opinion, the Ukrainian army today is able to stop any Russian aggression.
Practically speaking, Ukrainian soldiers are the only troops on earth that have combat experience fighting Russian regular and mercenary soldiers. Shouldn’t the free world be paying more attention to the Ukrainians’ achievements and skills?
Actually, the free world is paying attention. There are groups of military experts who take into account and systematize the experience of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
What more can the United States do to help Ukraine overcome Russian aggression?
First of all United States Government should be more attentive in supporting Ukraine politically in the international arena and, of course, the United States should provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to defend its sovereignty.
Do you think Ukrainian soldiers have the weapons, equipment, knowledge, determination and spirit to prevail against Moscow?
Yes, they have all the skills, qualification and motivation to stop the monster called Russian Empire.
Do Russian soldiers know that they are invaders and aggressors – violators of international law?
Not only Russian soldiers, but also a big part of Russian people are aware of it, but they all support their President. It’s not only a political problem, but a feature of Russian mentality.
Western pundits claim that Russia’s murder of Colonel Maksym Shapoval in late June was meant to undermine and weaken Ukraine’s security capabilities and intimidate its soldiers. Will such acts of Russian terrorism be successful?
Unfortunately, we are facing an enemy that has no morality. The murder of Shapoval is an act of intimidation but I think it’s not going to weaken Ukrainian security or demotivate militaries.
If the current Minsk talks fail to lead to a conclusive evacuation of Russian invaders from Ukraine, would then Ukraine and the other x-captive nations be subjected to ongoing acts of Russian terrorism?
I don’t really think that Minsk talks somehow effect or ever affected ongoing process on the front line. It actually plays a negative role for Ukraine. We have seen two Minsk agreements, which were not productive. Russian terrorism is a threat not only to ex-captive nations, but there’s a very high probability that it will be exported to European and NATO countries.
The OUN, led by Stepan Bandera and Yaroslav Stetsko, organized in 1947 a clandestine organization of captive nations, called the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN), to collectively fight against Russian aggression. In view of Russia’s continuing belligerence, do you think it is time to revive the ABN?
I think it’s the right time and place to consolidate the countries, which experienced Russian aggression after the fall of Soviet Union – countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Baltic countries. I think it would be timely and the idea of creating Georgian Legion, consisting of representatives of different nations, is symbolic today in Ukraine.
CAPTION: Lt. Mamuka Mamulashvili at the head of the Georgian Legion fighting with Ukrainian soldiers in defense of Ukrainian independence against invading Russian combatants and mercenaries.
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.
“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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.