Archive for April, 2010

Weekend Watching: The Ukrainian Side Of Vera Farmiga

April 30th, 2010 1 comment

Just came across this video, thought I’d share. Vera Farmiga is an Ukrainian-American award winning actress who’s recently starred in such films as Up in the Air, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Departed. These movie clips are from Touching Evil (2004).

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2010 Ukrainian Cultural Festival in Mission, BC this Saturday

April 30th, 2010 No comments

The 15th Annual B.C. Ukrainian Cultural Festival is happening in Mission, B.C. this Saturday.

May 1st, 2010

Clarke Theatre at the Heritage Park Secondary School – 33700 Prentis Street, Mission, BC

Our festival includes a dance and music competition, various displays of Ukrainian arts and crafts including embroidery, pysanka, wheat weaving as well as information on tours to Ukraine or tracing one’s genealogy, Ukrainian language classes and more. Each year we feature a special display or exhibit relating to Ukrainian culture and heritage.

Of course, no festival is complete without food! A very busy kitchen runs throughout the day.

[B.C. Ukrainian Festival]

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Yanukovych denies Holodomor as genocide to Europe (Updated)

April 27th, 2010 No comments

While the fighting in Ukrainian parliament has taken the media’s attention, Yanukovych dropped a bombshell in France today denying the Holodomor as genocide:

Yanukovych told the Council of Europe on Tuesday that he considered the famine “a shared tragedy” of all people who were all part of the Soviet Union, then led by Joseph Stalin.

Yanukovych’s stance is a complete shift from that of his predecessor, pro-Western president Viktor Yushchenko, who sought to have the famine recognized as genocide against Ukrainians.

Since being elected in February, Yanukovych has sought closer ties with Russia.

Tomorrow PACE will  hear the issue of commemorating the victims of the Holodomor, but it does not look like it will go well due to Russia’s ever-growing sphere-of-influence:

Russia has said that it cannot accept a number of amendments to the PACE resolution, including a proposal to recognize the Holodomor as a genocide of the Ukrainian people.

Russia says the famine cannot be considered an act that targeted Ukrainians, as millions of people from different ethnic groups also lost their lives in vast territories across the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian nationalists say Russia, as the legal successor of the Soviet Union, should bear responsibility for the famine in which more than 3 million people perished in Ukraine.

Under former president Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine was seeking international recognition of the famine as an act of genocide.

Read the rest of the article

Russia removed genocide recognition from a PACE report last November, using it’s clout as  a major energy supplier to Europe. It currently is constructing a gas pipeline directly to Germany, bypassing former Soviet countries that have shifted their support to the West in the past few years.

Update: Not surprisingly, PACE’s report this year again will not honour the Holodomor as genocide, vetoed from the Kremlin by the Russian-friendly Turkey delegate Mevlüt Çavusoglu (from a country that knows how to deny genocide). When will Europe conduct a real investigation into this terrible time in history like the United States did in the 80’s? History shouldn’t be mandated by politicans.

Interestingly enough, the Holodomor is considered genocide in Ukraine by law. Can Yanukovych be impeached for breaking it?

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Ukraine Extends Lease on Russian Naval Base, protests erupt in Parliament

April 27th, 2010 No comments

Update: Meanwhile in France today, Yanukovych denies the Holodomor of genocide to Europe.

From the New York Times:

Ukrainian Parliament on Tuesday narrowly approved an agreement to allow Russia to extend a lease on a naval base on Ukrainian territory.

Opponents, who maintained that the deal would infringe on Ukrainian sovereignty, jeered loudly inside the legislative chamber in Kiev, set off smoke bombs and threw eggs at the parliamentary speaker, Volodymyr M. Lytvyn. His aides tried to protect him by holding umbrellas around him.

“This is a black page in the history of our government,” said Yulia V. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who is now the opposition leader.

Ukrainian politics are contentious, but even so, Tuesday’s vote was unusually unruly, offering a glimpse at the depth of feelings toward Russia.

Ukraine in recent years has turned into flashpoint in the struggle between the West and Russia for influence in the former Soviet Union. And for many Ukrainians, the Russian naval base has been a primary symbol, for better or worse, of the Russian role in the country.

Mr. Yanukovich has long had close ties to the Kremlin, in part because he is from the Russian-speaking region of eastern Ukraine. Last week, he reached an arrangement with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri A. Medvedev, to extend the lease for another 25 years in return for a 30-percent reduction in the cost of Russian natural gas.

Read the rest of the article

But was the vote rigged to begin with?

The opposition – led on the streets by ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and inside by 150 deputies of her bloc — called parliament’s vote rigged. They tried in vain to physically stop the vote by covering their desks with the Ukrainian flag. Some deputies tossed a hail of raw eggs at the speaker, who sat at the rostrum protected by two bodyguards who shielded Lytvyn under two black umbrellas.

The vote is suspect since only 211 lawmakers, 15 less than the majority required to ratify the vote, registered for the session. A dozen new Party of Regions deputies were sworn in before the crucial vote. All deputies belonging to the ruling coalition — Party of Regions, Communist Party and Volodymyr Lytvyn bloc — supported the measure, along with 13 non-aligned deputies.

Tymoshenko vowed to unite the democratic opposition in nationwide protests culminating in a major event on May 11, when parliament reconvenes.

Tymoshenko bloc deputy Volodymyr Polokhalo said Party of Regions deputies occupied the chamber by force and voted from the seats of deputies from the Our Ukraine opposition. “After the second smoke bomb went off, they barged into the Our Ukraine sector and used the cards of the deputies who defected from the faction in order to pass the vote,” Polokhalo said.

The Financial Times also chimed on what extending the Black Sea Fleet means for Ukraine:

By allowing the Russian navy to extend the lease over its base at Sevastopol in the Crimea, he has effectively torpedoed Ukraine’s pursuit of Nato membership. The alliance’s rules prohibit any member nation from hosting foreign bases on its soil.

Here’s a video of people rallying outside the Rada from Ukrainiana:

And here’s one of demonstrators in parliament, is this government really ‘democracy in action’ by the will of the people?

Vladimir Putin was quoted on the deal:

“Military co-operation, without a doubt, increases trust between two countries, gives us an opportunity to do work full of trust in the economic and social and political spheres,”

Scratch another one off the master plan to undo the Orange Revolution:

This is the new face of Yanukovych’s Ukraine:

Categories: politics, ukraine Tags:

24th Anniversary of Chornobyl today

April 26th, 2010 No comments

Last year’s article on the Soviet cover-up of Chornobyl (that’s how it’s spelled in Ukrainian as opposed to Chernobyl in Russian) is still as relevant as ever. Today one of the co-founders of the U.S. Ukraine Foundation, Robert A. McConnell made a statement to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on Chornobyl and nuclear weapons:

During the evening of April 26, 1986 – 24 years ago – there was an explosion at one of the reactors of the Chornobyl Nuclear Plant in Ukraine, a fact now well known throughout the world.However, even today we do not have a complete understanding or information about the consequences of this disaster then and its ongoing ramifications because the Soviet Union took on a major cover-up of this nuclear explosion.

Moscow, which then still controlled all dissemination of information throughout the Soviet Union, did not announce or warn the people of Ukraine or nearby Belarus of the Chornobyl accident. When European scientists raised an alarm, on the morning of April 28, Moscow initially denied an accident had occurred.

The accident was played down and life went on as usual in the Soviet state. Though, as was later learned, Kyiv’s Communist political elite knew, or had suspicions about the disaster and began to evacuate their families, within the first 72 hours after the explosion. However, millions of people within 100 kilometers of Chornobyl, which included Kyiv, and outlying suburbs and villages, had no information whatsoever.

On April 30, the lead story in Soviet media was about flowers in Ukraine and preparations for the May Day parade. The public was assured that “the air and water around Kyiv was fine,” though we now know the radiation plume returned over Kyiv with increasing amounts of radiation.

Not until May 5 – 10 days after the explosion – and only after public outcry from Europe and government pressure from the West did the Kremlin admit to the completely uncontained nature of the explosion and the extent of the radioactive disaster.

However, Soviet authorities held steadfast to their decision that no Western aid – none – would be sent to Ukraine. American doctors were allowed to fly into Moscow to assist there, but none were allowed into Ukraine. These aid efforts were reported and highlighted in the West but the disparaging treatment of the people of Ukraine, the people most affected, never seemed to trigger any genuine official or media outrage.

Eventually, significantly more than a year after the nuclear explosion, Western aid finally was allowed into Ukraine. No one will ever be able to define adequately the human cost of the unnecessary delay.

This information is important to place into context, not only to the reality and the implications of this reality within Ukraine, but to add a critical perspective to the history of the American’s on-again, off-again infatuation with Moscow and our frequently myopic Russo-centric attitudes and policies.

If ever there is a country that has had both a reason and a determination to be nuclear-free, it is Ukraine. Ukraine’s actions did not stop with declarations, but continued after independence. Ukraine acted upon its declaration: officials sought a way to dismantle and dispose of aging nuclear missiles. As mentioned earlier, in the early 1990s, the last people Ukraine trusted with anything that could endanger the lives of the people of Ukraine were the power elite in Russia, under the direction of the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials wanted to turn over Ukraine’s warheads to the United States and said so many times, on many occasions. Moscow, however, vehemently protested Ukraine’s position, insisting that the warheads be delivered to Russia.

Read the rest of the article

Meanwhile residents in nearby village too poor to live elsewhere are still suffering and dying from this catastrophe, and while the exploded reactor is encased, the shell is deteriorating and internationally funded work to replace the shell is far behind schedule.

The death toll from the Chernobyl disaster is not well documented. Officially there were 56 fatalities, mostly from radiation poisoning after the event. However, a cover-up by Soviet authorities has spurred much speculation over what the long-term effects of the incident are. Outbreaks of cancers and birth defects have been blamed on the Chernobyl disaster but never scientifically substantiated. [Wired]

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