Posted by: Douglas Frantz, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs

April 13, 2014

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Pro-Russian Demonstrators Beat an Activist in Kharkiv, Ukraine on April 13, 2014 , (c) AP Photo

Pro-Russian Demonstrators Beat an Activist in Kharkiv, Ukraine on April 13, 2014, (c) AP Photo

This was no peaceful spring weekend for Ukraine.  Coordinated, well-armed Russian-backed militants attacked government buildings in a professional operation in six cities in eastern regions.  Many of the attackers were carrying Russian-origin weapons and outfitted in bulletproof vests and camouflage uniforms with insignia removed.

Observers on the ground saw that the events were carefully planned and orchestrated.  In Kharkiv, as pro-Russian groups neared pro-Ukrainian protesters, women, children, and medics moved away, leaving only well-armed young men to approach the pro-Ukrainian protestors.  These people were looking for a fight.  The pro-Russian “demonstration” was in fact a bloody attack on peaceful, pro-unity demonstrators.

The attacks occurred simultaneously in multiple locations.  These were not grass-roots political protests.  These armed “demonstrators” took over government administration buildings and security headquarters, seized weapons, forced local officials to abandon their offices, and attacked communications towers.

There are reports that independent Ukrainian and Russian media have been harassed and excluded from covering the seizures, while pro-Russian media had special access to broadcast the demands of these armed groups.  Observers have also reported that the militants have taken journalists into custody, attacked at least one, and in one case fired weapons as a warning to other journalists.

Ukrainian officials have reported that Russian intelligence officers are directly involved in orchestrating the activities of these attackers.

Ukraine has seen this before.  The parallels to Crimea are worrying.  There, highly organized, well-equipped, and professional forces wearing Russian military uniforms, balaclavas, and military gear without identifying insignia moved in first to take control of Crimean government and security facilities before being later replaced by regular Russian military forces.

Under extreme pressure from their large and well-armed neighbor, the legitimate government of Ukraine is nevertheless using diplomacy first.  Kyiv has only used force when public safety was at risk and dialogue failed.  Prime Minister Yatsenyuk was in the region on Friday to discuss the central government’s willingness to work with regions on decentralization in advance of the May 25 presidential elections.  The government is clearly seeking a future as a nation fully integrated in international institutions, a nation that uses words and not force, a nation that defends the rights of minorities, a nation at peace with the West — and the East.

The transitional government of Ukraine has shown admirable restraint to date as it deals soberly with its bullying neighbor to the north.  As Secretary Kerry said, “The United States and our allies will not hesitate to use 21st-century tools to hold Russia accountable for 19th-century behavior.”  Russia has a choice — it is time to make the right decision.


Posted by: Merle David Kellerhals Jr. , IIP Staff Writer

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Secretary of State Kerry, right, conferred with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris March 30 on Ukraine.

Secretary of State Kerry, right, conferred with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris March 30 on Ukraine.

Washington — After meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry says they agreed that the crisis in Ukraine requires a diplomatic resolution and that further talks must include the Ukrainians.

Kerry emphasized that “diplomacy has a critical role to play in helping the people of Ukraine to achieve their goal of living in dignity and in a stable, peaceful and unified democracy.”

During a four-hour meeting with Lavrov, Kerry said he made it clear that the United States still considers the Russian actions in the Crimean Peninsula “to be illegal and illegitimate.” Kerry also said that the “Russians’ actions over the past several weeks have placed it at odds, obviously, with the rule of law and the international community, and we still believe on the wrong side of history.”

The U.N. General Assembly, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Group of Seven major economies condemned Russia’s aggressive acts in the Crimean region of Ukraine.

The OSCE Permanent Council decided in a special session on Ukraine March 21 to deploy an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission of international observers to Ukraine with the aim of helping reduce tensions and fostering peace, stability and security, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said in Bern, Switzerland.

Kerry flew to Paris to meet with Lavrov at the Russian ambassador’s residence March 30 after Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama to discuss the situation in Ukraine two days earlier. During the call, Obama also urged Putin to withdraw tens of thousands of Russian combat soldiers from the border it shares with Ukraine, according to the White House.

“The United States is consulting with Ukraine at every step of this process, and we will not accept a path forward where the legitimate government of Ukraine is not at the table,” Kerry told journalists. “This principle is clear: No decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

Before his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, Kerry spoke with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to repeat the United States’ commitment to coordinate closely with Ukraine and to sustain support throughout this process.

Both the United States and Russia offered suggestions on how to de-escalate the security and political crisis in and around Ukraine, Kerry said. According to the secretary, they agreed to work with the Ukrainian government to implement steps that they already are taking to meet certain priorities, including these:

• Protecting the rights of national minorities.

• Securing language rights.

• Demobilizing and disarming irregular forces and what they called provocateurs.

• Ensuring an inclusive constitutional reform process.

• Holding free and fair elections monitored by the international community.

Kerry also told journalists that any real progress in Ukraine must include a pullback of the large Russian military force massed along Ukraine’s borders. Kerry said that “these forces are creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine.”

For its part, Lavrov told journalists, Russia seeks to create a loose federation of Ukrainian regions where each chooses its own economic, financial, social, linguistic and religious governing models. Kerry said it is not up to the United States and Russia to make decisions regarding federalization for Ukraine.

“It’s up to Ukrainians, and Ukrainians will decide their future for themselves, by themselves, with respect to what kind of definitions work for them,” Kerry said.


Posted by: Phil Breedlove, General, USAF, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Commander, U.S. European Command
March 11, 2014

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If you have been following events unfolding in Ukraine you may have noted various claims regarding the identity and origins of the armed groups currently contributing to the unrest in Crimea. Headlines are reporting that heavily armed soldiers have surrounded Ukraine’s military bases in Crimea and have taken control of 11 border posts in the region. Clearly, the situation is serious. But who are these armed soldiers, and who has given them orders?

Many media outlets have reported claims that these troops are “local militias” who are wearing Russian-style fatigues because such attire is available in army shops across the former Soviet Union. Other outlets are repeating an assertion that armed men deployed to Ukraine’s Crimea region are simply ”self-defense forces.”

I would like to address these claims.

Here at NATO’s military headquarters we have been closely monitoring and analyzing the situation in Ukraine and have been keenly focused on these troops. After extensive review of multiple information sources we believe these are Russian military forces acting on clear orders to undermine Ukraine forces in Crimea.

This conclusion, although hastily stated by some members of the press, is based on deliberate and painstaking scrutiny of the many sources of data available to our professional military analysts. As we move forward and continue to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine, it will be with the understanding of the real identity of these forces.

The photos below are just a few examples openly available that help paint the picture.

Example #1

The following several photos show military vehicles that are currently operating in Crimea. Note the Russian military licence plates on the vehicles.

The first picture is from the Crimean town of Balaklava.

Example #2
This example is from YouTube
In this video, local journalists interviewed a soldier who admitted he was part of the Russian military. When asked why he didn’t have any insignias or symbols on his uniform, he responded that he was told not to wear them.

Posted by: John Kerry, the 68th Secretary of State

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2014_0127_holocaust_memorial“It was so terrible. It was hard for the mind to absorb it.” Those were the words of U.S. Master Sergeant Marvin Josephs as he entered Buchenwald on April 12, 1945, along with military chaplain Rabbi Herschel Schachter.

Decades later, Josephs still remembered vividly the words “You’re free” reverberating from Rabbi Schachter’s bullhorn. He remembered seeing the crematoria and the house of the commandant and his notorious wife, Ilse Koch, the “Beast of Buchenwald.” Above all, he remembered the survivors — emaciated and tortured — coming forward at the sound of the rabbi’s bullhorn.

The scenes of liberated prisoners were so overwhelming that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered every man in the U.S. 4th Armored Division to walk the grounds of Buchenwald. Josephs immediately understood why: “He didn’t want people to ever deny what happened.”

Nearly 70 years after World War Two ended, 70 years after the world’s collective horror at the Holocaust, anti-Semitism remains a global menace. It is not enough to remember the millions of innocent lives lost in one of the darkest chapters in all of world history. We must reaffirm our vow never to forget the evil that comes from bigotry and intolerance and turn that commitment into action.

Many of us in the United States have personal and family connections to this difficult history – and to the cause of action now. My brother’s interest in our family’s genealogy took him back to the Czech Republic just months ago to learn more about the history of ancestors we had never even heard about until the last decade, stories of a great uncle Otto and his sister Jenni who perished in the Holocaust.

I’ll never forget, on my first trip to Berlin as Secretary of State, meeting with a group of young Germans. They told me something I never knew about the city where I’d spent time growing up in the aftermath of World War Two. Throughout the city, they’ve placed “stumbling stones” to mark where Jews were murdered in the streets and other victims of the Holocaust. Every day, passers-by remember what happened — and equally important — they never forget or deny it.

Holocaust Remembrance Day calls us to condemn anti-Semitism in every form – whether it’s the disturbing rise of xenophobic and anti-Semitic parties in Europe or the uptick of violence against Jewish people anywhere in the world.

The EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights 2013 Report on Anti-Semitism underscores the stakes. One third of those surveyed experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment over the past five years, with 26 percent enduring verbal assault or harassment over the past year alone — just because they were Jewish.

What’s more, 4 percent reported physical violence and 23 percent said they avoid Jewish events or sites because they don’t feel safe.

Of course, the numbers don’t tell the full story.

In Italy, police are tracking down the culprit who sent pig heads last week to Rome’s Grand Synagogue, the Israeli Embassy, and a museum sponsoring a Holocaust exhibit.

In Romania, a government-owned television channel aired a profoundly anti-Semitic Christmas song, which claimed that Jews are only good “in the chimney as smoke.”

If these acts of hate don’t hit you in the gut, I don’t know what will. If this isn’t a call to action, I don’t know what is.

We need to be forceful about what is right and what is wrong. But we also need to work to recognize our common humanity in others, and to start the conversations that will help others recognize ours.

That’s why the Obama Administration has launched the Atrocities Prevention Board. That’s why we’re working hand in glove with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide so that we can detect and highlight this global scourge.

And that’s why, last year, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman and President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Rashad Hussain joined an historic interfaith visit to the concentration camps at Dachau and Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The United States is committed to having the difficult conversations across cultures and religions that can actually change people’s opinions. Pope Francis calls it “the dialogue of life,” and we reaffirm today that there are indeed millions of lives that depend on it.

We — each of us — have a responsibility to stand up and affirm human dignity. In an interconnected world, anti-Semitism that goes unanswered anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. That is a collective challenge we all face in the 21st century.

Posted by: Eric A. Johnson, Public Affairs Officer

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MLKEach January, the American people pause to reflect on the life of one of our nation’s great leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  On January 20, the Embassy and all federal government offices in the United States will be closed to mark the birth of an American hero who used nonviolence and civil disobedience to fight against inequality and injustice.

In early 1963, African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama were engaged in coordinated street protests and marches in pursuit of equal civil and economic rights.  These demonstrations were held, despite a court ban on “parading, demonstrating, boycotting, trespassing and picketing.”  As a leader of these demonstrations, Dr. King was arrested on April 3, 1963.  While in jail, he penned an open letter to the clergy to explain his actions.

Excerpts from his letter:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham.  But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.  I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.  It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”

“In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps:  collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.”

“You are quite right in calling for negotiation.  Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action.  Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”

“One may well ask: ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws:  just and unjust.  I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws.  One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws.  Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.  I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”

“Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

“An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself.”

“Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.  For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit.  Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade.  But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.”

“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”

“[The] great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is . . . [the] moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

“Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.  The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro.  Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. . . .  I have not said to my people:  ‘Get rid of your discontent.’  Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action.  And now this approach is being termed extremist.  But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.  Was not Jesus an extremist for love:  ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’  Was not Amos an extremist for justice:  ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.’  Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel:  ‘I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.’  Was not Martin Luther an extremist:  ‘Here I stand;  I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.’  And John Bunyan: ‘I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.’  And Abraham Lincoln:  ‘This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.’  And Thomas Jefferson: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . . ’ So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?  Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

The entire text of Dr. King’s letter can be found online.

Posted by: N. Kumar Lakhavani, Information Management Specialist

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ModelUNI got excited when I saw an email from Peace Corps Director Dr. Doug Teschner inviting me to attend the Model United Nations (MUN) Camp managed, hosted, and taught by U.S. Peace Corps volunteers in Ukraine. I quickly made up my mind to take the weekend off and go to Odesa to attend and speak at the conference on my own dime and my own time. This was an opportunity of a lifetime to speak to the inspiring future leaders of Ukraine and also meet Peace Corps volunteers and camp counselors.

The MUN conference consisted of a week of activities that offered bright high school students a unique opportunity to learn about global issues, develop skills in negotiation and debate, and become friends with other remarkable individuals from all over Ukraine.

It was a quick trip! I booked a flight to Odesa for Saturday morning and a day train from Odesa returning back to Kyiv on Sunday. The Embassy’s Public Affairs Office pointed me in the right direction so I could prepare a message about diplomacy, volunteerism, and development of communication and negotiation skills. Knowing how much Peace Corps volunteers give up to serve overseas, I wanted to speak about the importance of volunteerism.

MUNdiscussion1I flew down to Odesa early Saturday morning and in less than two hours a taxi got me safely to the MUN Camp in Odesa Oblast. Sixty attendees, 20+ Peace Corps Volunteers, and 10+ camp counselors were in the middle of a meeting working hard to pass a MUN resolution. Participants were representing countries from Angola to Afghanistan, Cuba to Croatia, Panama to Pakistan. You could see all of the hard work and effort that was put into this camp by Peace Corps Volunteers like Lukas Henke, Natalie Gmitro and Julie Daniels.

MUN Camp participants had been at the event the entire preceding week starting at 7 AM and finishing as late as 10 PM every day. They discussed parliamentary procedures, meetings as nations, global issues, and had already taken votes on different resolutions. The camp included some fun evening events such as a talent show, “Activities from Around the World,” networking, and a bonfire.

MUN-Meetingconclusion1I was given the podium on Saturday to speak to the participants about “Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Value of Helping Others by Volunteering.” After my remarks, participants spent 45 minutes asking me questions. I was also invited to attend a training session about corruption later that day. At the session, participants discussed the definition of corruption, their thoughts about corruption in Ukraine, the causes of corruption, and shared ideas about how to eradicate corruption in their country. The campers took turns roleplaying to explore what corruption looked like and how individuals could work towards making Ukraine a corruption- free society. Georgia’s success in reducing corruption was cited by participants.

At the conclusion of the corruption session, I was given a thank you note signed by the participants sharing their appreciation for my travel all the way to the camp in Odesa Oblast to speak.

A Peace Corps Volunteer showed me the way to the marshrutka stop with my most prized possession that day in my hands. The two hour marshrutka ride back to Odesa was tough but reading the thank you note made me realize it was all worth it!

Posted by: Oleksandra Chuvakova,  Community Affairs Coordinator,  Microsoft Ukraine

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BibliomistTechnology is becoming increasingly important in all public services, but especially libraries. In an age where economic, educational, health, and social opportunities depend more and more on access to the Internet, lack of access means lack of opportunity.

Microsoft decided that the USAID Bibliomist project was a great opportunity to partner with USAID, the International Research and Exchanges Board,  the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Library Association to spur the evolution of Ukraine’s libraries into modern information resource  and community centers.  Microsoft donated $9 million in software to Ukraine’s public libraries as part of its global initiative to endow communities with accessible and useful technology.  Today Bibliomist can proudly state that it has helped revive 10 percent of Ukraine’s libraries and firmly planted the seeds to rejuvenate many more. Only through such a broad-based partnership could such an endeavor be realized.

Libraries are sources not only of books but also information, so their importance is not waning. Libraries can use technology in a variety of ways. For instance, by supporting public access computers, we help ensure that those who do not have computers available to them at home, work, or school can still benefit from this critical technology. Using technology, libraries can also provide benefits to the community as a whole. For instance, libraries are well positioned to develop community assessments, which are studies that help a community identify its needs and then determine how to go about meeting them.

Today Ukraine’s public libraries are working diligently to close both the digital and the opportunity gap: from giving free classes on resume-building to providing free access to technology.  They are striving to provide services and workshops that address essential community needs, from increasing electoral literacy to promoting healthy lifestyles. As libraries discover better ways to deliver information via new media platforms and improve operational efficiencies, they will have a greater impact on a broader population.

In supporting Ukraine’s libraries, our expectation is that Microsoft technologies will be a resource that both municipalities and local community groups will be able to use in their efforts to bridge the digital divide and make their communities stronger.

Although there is much still to do, we’re inspired by what we’ve seen while working with Ukrainians: people taking the lead in changing not only their lives but the lives of those around them, making a real impact in their local communities and in Ukraine in general.