Month: February 28, 2020 6:51 am

KYIV – On February 20, a Ukrainian airplane evacuated 45 citizens of Ukraine and 27 foreigners from the city of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. After stops in Almaty and Kyiv, and circling in the sky as it awaited clearance to land, the chartered plane arrived in Kharkiv. But the most challenging part of the journey was still ahead.

An angry mob attacked the bus transporting evacuees from Kharkiv’s airport to a sanatorium in the Poltava region for a two-week period of quarantine. The protest turned millions of eyes to the town of Novi Sanzhary and elicited countless questions; many cited the lack of pertinent information that should have been shared with the public.

All of the evacuees were reported to be healthy, but were placed under observation.

KYIV – On February 20 Ukraine marked the sixth anniversary of the killing of scores of participants in the Euro-Maidan in central Kyiv – the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred as they have become known. It saw renewed expressions of anger and frustration about the failure to bring the perpetrators to justice and an intensification of recriminations about the handling of the case both before and under the current administration of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Mr. Zelenskyy, who inherited this sensitive issue from the previous president, Petro Poroshenko, blames the lack of progress on flaws in the judicial system and alleged lack of political will on the part of his predecessors. On February 11, he told Interfax-Ukraine that “the most complicated case in our country is the Maidan.”

CHICAGO – On the sixth anniversary of the bloody killings that took place on Kyiv’s Maidan between February 18 and 21, 2014, during the Revolution of Dignity, Ukrainians throughout the world remembered and honored the victims. More than 100 heroes were killed, dozens disappeared and hundreds were tortured on those fateful days.

On February 21, Chicago’s Ukrainian community commemorated the tragic events at an event hosted by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Illinois Division, and the Ukrainian National Museum.

White House extends Russia sanctions

U.S. President Donald Trump has extended for one year a series of previously imposed sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, in particular, forcibly annexing the Crimean peninsula and further destabilizing the country. The president’s executive order was signed on February 25 and includes a package of sanctions that have expanded in scope over time since March 6, 2014. They were first introduced by the administration of former President Barack Obama and broadened three more times in 2014 as well as in 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the order to invade Crimea in early 2014 after the Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, abandoned office and fled the country amid a popular uprising that opposed his increasingly corrupt and authoritarian rule. Moscow then started supporting militants in eastern Ukraine in a war that has killed more than 13,000 people and uprooted more than 1.5 million people from their homes in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

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Bilateral Ukrainian-Turkish cooperation in the defense sector continues unabated even after the consequential 2019 elections in both countries. On January 23, the Joint Ukrainian-Turkish Commission on Defense-Industrial Cooperation met again, in Kyiv (Ukrainian government, January 23). This time, the Turkish delegation was headed by the vice-president of the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries of the Republic of Turkey, Serdar Demirel, whereas, the Ukrainian side was represented by Deputy Minister of Defense for European Integra­tion Anatolii Petrenko.

The goal of this inter-governmental body’s latest assembly was to discuss further steps toward realizing a series of joint armament and military equipment projects. The last top-level meeting on this topic was held in October 2019, between Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine Oleksiy Danilov and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Turkey to Ukraine Yağmur Ahmet Güldere (Nsdc.gov.ua, October 28, 2019).

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The recent appointment of Andriy Yermak to head the Presidential Office of Ukraine (see Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 21) could increase tensions between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, while the long-serving minister of internal affairs, Arsen Avakov, is likely to ingratiate himself to both sides simultaneously.

The recent changes in President Zelenskyy’s close circle signaled his readiness to be more independent from even his most experienced political operatives. On February 5, the heretofore chief of the Presidential Office, Andriy Bohdan, 43, was replaced by Mr. Yermak, 48, a lawyer and film producer who had partnered with Mr. Zelenskyy in business for over a decade (Focus.ua, February 5).

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has issued a decree designating February 26 a memorial day to mark the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region by Russia in 2014.

Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum deemed illegitimate by at least 100 countries. In April that year, Russia threw its support behind armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 13,000 people have been killed in the ongoing conflict.

February 26 was designated the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, because on that day in 2014 Ukrainians held the largest protest in Crimea’s capital, Symferopol, against Russia’s intervention in the peninsula following the toppling of Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych, President Zelenskyy’s office said in a statement.

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U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo released the following statement on February 26. (Source: Department of State)

February 27 will mark the sixth anniversary of Russia’s attempted annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, and the United States reaffirms: Crimea is Ukraine.  As underscored in our July 2018 Crimea Declaration, the United States does not and will not ever recognize Russia’s claims of sovereignty over the peninsula.  We call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea.

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NEW YORK – On January 19, in the course of his working visit to the United Nations headquarters, Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko met with members of the Executive Board of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

Opening the discussion, UCCA President Andriy Futey warmly welcomed the minister to New York and thanked him for always being agreeable to meet with Ukrainian community leaders. Mr. Futey went on to outline the UCCA’s priorities for 2020, and informed the minister that the UCCA will be celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. He invited Minister Prystaiko to attend the UCCA’s XXIII Congress, which will be held this year in October.

The month of February, for Ukrainians worldwide, is a time of remembrance and mourning, as well as steadfastness and resolve.

On February 20, we remember Ukraine’s modern-day heroes of the Euro-Maidan – the Revolution of Dignity – who were killed in 2014 as they defended their country’s European choice and democratic values. That date is now annually observed as the Day of the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred. As President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted in his address on the occasion, the day is “a tribute to self-sacrifice, heroism, courage and patriotism,” “a symbol of unbrokenness and a source of inspiration for the Ukrainian warriors who are now defending Ukraine.”

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February 26 is marked in Ukraine as the Day of Crimean Resistance to Russian Aggression. It was on this day in 2014 that Russia had hoped to achieve a coup in Crimea, presenting its annexation to the world as a vote in Crimea’s Parliament to change the peninsula’s status. The elaborate ploy failed, largely thanks to the Mejlis, or self-governing body, of the Crimean Tatar people and the huge demonstration that they called in the square in Symferopol outside Crimea’s Parliament.

The failure of this plan prompted Moscow to order the deployment of Russian soldiers early the next morning. Despite little will from the international community to take real measures against Russia, the involvement of Russian military made sanctions and international refusal to recognize the land-grab inevitable.

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All too often since the Crimean Anschluss of 2014, Moscow has used its powers in the occupied Ukrainian peninsula to test out and develop repressive measures that it has then extended to the Russian Federation. Among the most notorious of these, of course, is the use of psychiatric incarceration against dissidents.

That has attracted attention, but it is far from the only area in which this is the case. According to  Michael Talanov, a member of the Free Russia Forum who lives in San Francisco, Moscow has completely isolated Crimea in cyberspace – an obvious test and indication of its broader plans.

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