Making Good on the Promise of the Maidan

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

Читати українською

photo 51
U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at the Nebesna Sotnya memorial, January 2014

Two years after the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine’s leaders — spurred on by an active, engaged, and committed civil society — have pressed forward on difficult political and economic reforms to bring Ukraine closer to its chosen European future. They have done so in the face of a Kremlin-manufactured conflict in the East and a struggling economy inherited from the Yanukovych era, making all that has been accomplished in past two years even more inspiring.

Change has not come easily; it has come with great sacrifice. As Vice President Biden said during his visit, to honor those who have given so much – first on the Maidan and later in Donbas – each of us has an obligation to answer the call of history and to help build a united, democratic Ukraine. The most fitting memorial to the Heavenly Hundred is a Ukraine genuinely rid of corruption, cronyism, and kleptocracy. A Ukraine with deepening ties to Europe that will create new opportunity, new growth, and empower a new generation to reach its God-given potential.

In the day-to-day politics and the bureaucratic struggles of economic reform, it’s easy to get lost in the details. But at times like these, it’s important to keep our eyes on the horizon – to stay focused on the trend lines, not the headlines. To recognize that change is happening, and progress is being made, whether in the Rada, the National Bank, the police, or the reformed Naftogaz. In fact, more progress than at any time in Ukraine’s history.

In the last two years, Ukraine has held successful presidential, parliamentary, and local elections in line with international norms.  You’ve stuck to your IMF program. Your currency has stabilized and you’ve rebuilt your reserves. You’ve worked hard to regain Ukraine’s credibility with the international financial community. Across Ukraine, you have a new, clean national police force that enjoys the most valuable asset of all, the public’s trust. You’ve made progress on decentralization — empowering local communities to improve services for citizens. Economic growth is returning, and a new Free Trade Zone with the European Union has opened exciting new opportunities to leverage Ukraine’s untapped economic potential.

We all agree that more can and must be done, particularly in the area of corruption where so much damage has been done, but the progress of the last two years shows that Ukraine is changing. Two years ago on the Maidan and in the years since, you’ve shown the world that when Ukrainians stand tall together, no kleptocrat, no oligarch, and no foreign power can stop you. By building an inclusive, democratic government that presses forward on reform and truly serves the people, Ukraine’s leaders can show the world that there will be no return to the ways of the past. That’s what the thousands gathered on Maidan stood for. That’s what the Heavenly Hundred and the thousands who’ve died defending their country from a relentless Russian aggressor gave their lives for. Their sacrifice is your obligation.

In the spirit of the Maidan, Ukraine’s leaders can put the Ukrainian people first – above posturing, party politics, and personal interests. They can seize this opportunity and help Ukraine step fully into its rightful place among the free, democratic, Western nations.  That’s the future the Ukrainian people want and deserve. And it’s the best way of honoring the hopes, the dreams, and the memory of those whose blood and courage have given Ukraine a second chance for freedom.

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Crimea: Kremlin Mistreats Minorities

Pasted by: IIP State

Читати українською

This is the fifth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

Under Russia’s broad extremism law, the Russian government has sought to declare that minority religious groups in Crimea are “extremists”. Crimean Tatars, Catholics, and Ukrainian Orthodox faithful face harassment and the confiscation of property simply because of their faith.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stand United for Ukraine.
Stop Russian Aggression.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Forced into Russian Citizenship

Posted by ShareAmerica

Читати українською

This is the fourth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

It’s been one year since Russia began its aggressive occupation of Crimea. After the illegal referendum, it was nearly impossible for those Crimeans who wished to retain their Ukrainian citizenship to do so. They were forced instead to become Russian citizens.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stop Russian aggression.
Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Russia’s Illegal Occupation Tanks Tourism

Posted by ShareAmerica

Читати українською

This is the third of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

It’s been one year since Russia began its aggressive occupation of Crimea. Since then, the number of visitors to the once tourist hotspot has dropped by 45% – a tough statistic to live with when the income of one in three Crimean families depends on tourism.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.

Stop Russian aggression.

Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Crimea: Forced Disappearances

Posted by ShareAmerica

Читати українською

This is the second of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

Since the start of Russia’s illegal occupation, Human Rights Watch has documented at least 15 cases in which Crimean Tatars or pro- Ukraine activists were, abducted or went missing in Crimea. They believe the true number is much higher.
The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stop Russian Aggression. Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Costs to Crimea: 1 year after Russia’s occupation

Posted by ShareAmerica

Читати українською

A woman holds a banner that reads “Putin is an Occupier” during a rally against Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea in Simferopol, Crimea, March 11, 2014. (© AP Images)
A woman holds a banner that reads “Putin is an Occupier” during a rally against Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea in Simferopol, Crimea, March 11, 2014. (© AP Images)

One year ago, on March 16, Russia orchestrated an illegal referendum in Crimea that violated the Ukrainian constitution and was condemned by the international community. This is the first of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

How did an illegal referendum come about?

In late February 2014, Russia began an aggressive campaign of military intervention in Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine. Russian forces wearing ski masks and combat uniforms without markings seized the Crimean regional parliament, several government

In late February 2014, Russia began an aggressive campaign of military intervention in Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine. Russian forces wearing ski masks and combat uniforms without markings seized the Crimean regional parliament, several government buildings and the airport. They installed checkpoints on Crimea’s boundary with its neighboring Ukrainian provinces and fired at unarmed Ukrainian military personnel.

Ukrainian Crimeans were given 10 days’ notice to vote in a public referendum, which gave them two choices for their future — to join Russia or become independent. Voters had no option to oppose either of the ballot questions or to maintain the status quo, which would mean remaining part of Ukraine.

The Kremlin claims that an overwhelming 97 percent voted to join Russia, even though a poll taken one month before the referendum showed that only 41 percent of Crimea’s population favored that outcome.

The White House called the referendum “contrary to Ukraine’s constitution” and said that “the international community will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military” that is in violation of international law.

International response

In response to Russia’s illegal actions in Crimea, the U.S. and a broad coalition of countries imposed political and economic sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials responsible for orchestrating the Crimean crisis and undermining Ukrainian sovereignty.

Costs to Crimea

Under Russia’s occupation, the people of Crimea have suffered human, economic, political and social costs.

The U.S. continues to condemn Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine. The U.S. calls for an end to the occupation.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine.

Crimean Residents To Face Russian-Style Repression

Posted By Tom Malinowski, Assistant Secretary, Bureau Of Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor

APRIL 25, 2014

Читати українською

A View of the City of Bakhchysarai, Crimea
A View of the City of Bakhchysarai, Crimea

One unfortunate effect – and perhaps intent – of the Russian government’s threats against eastern Ukraine has been to divert the world’s attention from the part of Ukraine it has already seized.

On April 15, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on Crimea documenting what the Russian government has tried to hide by denying international monitors access to Crimea:  the imprisonment, torture, and killings of Crimean citizens who opposed Russia’s illegal annexation of the peninsula prior to the March referendum.

The world is already familiar with some of the more horrific reports that have emerged in recent weeks, such as the discovery on March 18 of the body of Crimean Tatar activist Reshat Ametov two weeks after he had been abducted, bearing clear evidence of abuse.  On March 25, Human Rights Watch reported that two Euromaidan activists in Crimea had been kidnapped and brutally tortured by Russian and local forces in secret facilities for 11 days.

A Tatar woman cries during the funeral of Reshat Ametov, a Tatar pro-Ukrainian activist and father of three, who disappeared after attending a rally on March 3 in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 18, 2014.
A Tatar woman cries during the funeral of Reshat Ametov, a Tatar pro-Ukrainian activist and father of three, who disappeared after attending a rally on March 3 in Simferopol, Crimea, on March 18, 2014.

After spinning a fictitious tale of protecting members of the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine, the Russian government and its proxies are subjecting members of ethnic minorities in Crimea to the very abuses they pretend to oppose.  On March 31, pro-Russian thugs beat a 14-year-old Tatar boy for speaking Tatar in public.  On March 18, Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Temirgaliyev announced that Tatars must give up their land to be used for other purposes.  On March 15 and 16, pro-Russia thugs kidnapped Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests, interrogated them, and had local “authorities” charge some of them with “extremism.”  Following anonymous death threats, the Chief Reform Rabbi of Crimea has fled.  All told, international organizations report that around 5,000 people, including minority Christians, Jews, and at least 3,000 Tatars, have fled Crimea and sought refuge elsewhere in Ukraine.

If the Russian government begins to impose through its occupation and purported annexation of Crimea the repressive laws it is increasingly implementing in Russia, Crimean residents may experience surprising restrictions on the rights they once freely exercised.  Among these are:

  • A Loss of Autonomy.  Even as President Putin demands decentralization in Ukraine, he is abolishing it in Russia.  A new bill in the Duma could cancel direct mayoral elections in Russia, stripping citizens of their ability to elect their local leaders.
  • Censorship and Propaganda.  As has already been done within Russia, Russian authorities have tried to limit Crimean residents’ access to TV channels that are not Kremlin-controlled.  From Russia’s internet space, Crimean residents could find themselves unable to access certain independent news sites.
  • Criminalization of Dissent.  The Russian government could attempt to subject Crimean residents who wish to express dissent to its arsenal of laws unduly restricting freedom of expression, including Russian-style prosecutions of journalists and activists for “extremism” and “hooliganism” simply for expressing independent views.
  • “Foreign Agent” Hysteria. Following the xenophobic trend encouraged by authorities in Russia, lists of local “traitors” and “foreign agents” have already begun to appear in Crimea.  Crimean non-governmental organizations (NGOs), like Russian ones, may find themselves subjected to a range of new burdensome regulations, including the notorious Russian “Foreign Agents” NGO law.  Many Crimean human rights defenders have already fled Crimea, and many of those who stayed are considering a principled stance to avoid taking on the false and stigmatizing label of “foreign agent.”
  • Limits on Freedom of Assembly. Recent Russian laws instituting harsh fines (over $9000) for participating in peaceful unsanctioned protest, if imposed in Crimea, may have a chilling effect on public demonstrations.  We’ve already seen evidence in Sevastopol – on April 15, the city banned an LGBT pride parade, citing Russia’s ban on LGBT “propaganda.”

Russia will continue to pay a high price if it continues to occupy Crimea.  Sanctions imposed because of its actions in Crimea will remain so long as those actions continue.  And we will increase these costs if Russia does not follow through on the commitments it made in Geneva on April 17 to de-escalate the crisis it has manufactured in eastern Ukraine.  We will also continue to empower Ukraine to withstand Russian pressure and move towards a prosperous and democratic future.  In recent days, the United States has signed a loan guarantee agreement with Ukraine to unlock $1 billion in financing, which will help the Ukrainian Government to provide critical services and protect vulnerable citizens as the government implements necessary economic reforms.  We are providing additional assistance to support those reforms, as well as free and fair elections, anti-corruption initiatives, recovery of stolen assets, and helping Ukraine withstand politically-motivated trade actions by Russia.

Video: Sanctions: How Did We Get Here?

As we look to what has happened in Crimea, and seek to diffuse tensions in eastern Ukraine, we are reminded what is at stake.  This is not a dispute between different parts of Ukraine.  It is a contest, as President Obama has said, between two competing ideals: “the belief that through conscience and free will, each of us has the right to live as we choose,” and an “older, more traditional view of power” which holds that “order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.”  The desire to live in freedom, under a state that serves its citizens, not the other way around, is universal.  Ukrainians don’t want to lose their freedom.  Their fellow citizens in Crimea, and neighbors in Russia, deserve to reclaim it.