Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Agree to Disagree with Russian Aggression
Ukrainian Americans are so eager to hear words of support for Ukraine from the White House that we’ll accept double negatives, tidbits of opinions, Cabinet officials’ backing and new disclaimers.
Unfortunately, they’re all meaningless unless President Trump says so.
As the situation stands today, some two weeks ahead of the US-Russia summit in Helsinki, Finland, the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18 is raging, Crimea and Donbas are occupied, Russia is violating ceasefire agreements, and Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are being killed.
Will the United States continue not recognizing Russia’s illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea?
I can’t say for sure.
What I can say is that the White House has adopted a new foreign policy strategy aimed at scaring Moscow, safeguarding the former captive nations, and reaffirming its role as the protector of the free world: Agree to disagree.
That expression first surfaced a couple of days ago.
White House national security adviser John Bolton admitted that he discussed Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea with Russian fuhrer Vladimir Putin.
Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, told CBS’s Face The Nation on July 1 that “President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.”
Russia says aggression, US says they speak Russian.
That’s updated brinkmanship. Putin was clear and resolute about Crimea remaining an occupied possession of Russia while Bolton not only blinked but he shut his eyes and stuck his head into the sand, hoping the problem will disappear.
The next iteration of this bold strategy was the next day by Susan Sanders.
Sanders, in her regular exchange with reporters, repeated that the White House rejects Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and US sanctions will remain in place until this is reversed.
“We do not recognize Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea. We agree to disagree and the sanctions against Russia remain in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine,” Sanders told reporters.
So what does agree to disagree really mean? We agree that 2+2=4 but not always. We agree that today is Tuesday except when it isn’t? Russia agrees to do what it wishes to do anywhere in the world and the US is free to disagree with it? The US may or may not agree with Russia’s invasion, illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea and Russia certainly disagrees with Washington’s point of view and doesn’t care what it is.
Ukraine and the other x-captive nations that live or die on whispers of US support must certainly feel encouraged by such a myopic policy.
Perhaps President Trump ahead of the summit has personally voiced his firm commitment about Crimea’s return to Ukraine?
Sadly, not.
Trump has been vague on the issue when pressed by reporters last week. “We’re going to have to see,” he said.
See what? If Putin will allow the American President to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty or not?
On June 29, Trump declined to rule out recognizing Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
Asked by reporters on Air Force One whether reports about him dropping Washington’s longstanding opposition to the annexation were true, Trump said, “We’re going to have to see.” He didn’t flatly deny such an eventuality.
Trump gave a similar answer when asked whether he would consider lifting US sanctions on Russia that were imposed over the annexation.
The President pointed out the goal of his upcoming summit is to improve Washington-Moscow relations, which are at a post-cold war low, but apparently not forcing Russia to stand down with its occupation of Crimea and war in eastern Ukraine is not among his goals.
We'll see what Russia does,” Trump observed when pushed by reporters.
For his part, Bolton earlier ruled out the possibility of abandoning Washington’s opposition to the annexation. “That’s not the position of the United States,” he told CBS on July 1. “I think the president often says ‘we'll see’ to show that he’s willing to talk to foreign leaders about a range of issues and hear their perspective,” Bolton said. Would he say “we’ll see” to discussing world affairs with Hitler in order to hear his perspective on invading Poland and France?
In other words, Trump has told Putin that he’s willing to discuss everything for the sake of better relations with Moscow while the Russian dictator said they can discuss “all other issues” except Crimea.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin has “repeatedly stated and explained that Crimea cannot be and will never be on the agenda because it is an inseparable part of Russia.”
By agreeing not to discuss Crimea and Donbas with Putin, Trump is giving into Putin’s demands that the war in Ukraine and Russian aggression are none of America’s business – Moscow’s sphere of influence. Russia will continue to try to re-subjugate Ukraine and Washington has to accept it or agree to disagree.
Accepting that Crimea will never return to Ukrainian control, as Putin insists, would be a major concession to Russia, which is being punished by international trade sanctions over its actions. EU leaders this week extended sanctions for another six more months due to Moscow’s continuing war with Ukraine. So foreign policy pundits see this combination of interests as bartering chips.
The Helsinki summit is stirring nervousness among foreign policy experts. I have tweeted that the summit in Finland may repeat the infamous Yalta meeting of 1945 and result in Washington’s silent recognition of Russia’s plans for the re-subjugation of Ukraine and the x-captive nations.
In the past few weeks alone, Trump has called for Russia to be readmitted to the Group of 7 industrial powers, suggested Moscow has a legitimate claim to Crimea because a lot of Russian speakers live there and continued sowing doubts about whether Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election — or if it did, whether the sabotage actually benefited Hillary Clinton.
Is this an appropriate time for a summit with Moscow? Previous summits were conducted during the so-called cold war. Today, Russia is involved in a real shooting war with Ukraine. Putin is currently leading several wars at once – in Ukraine, Syria and a hybrid one against the West. He has been declared an international terrorist in some quarters after the verdict in the Litvinenko case, the shooting down of MH17, the poisoning of Skripal and so on, said Deutsche Welle commentators.
The World Cup and the upcoming summit are PR triumphs for Russia that legitimize Putin and pave the way for expanding its war in Ukraine. Remember that two weeks after the end of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia invaded Ukrainian Crimea. Obviously, Russia doesn’t deserve such positive public relations and a renewed opportunity for aggression.
While a handful of GOP senators have travelled to Moscow to kowtow before Russian leaders,
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) sent a warning to President Trump, pointing out why he shouldn’t recognize unlawful annexation of Crimea.
“Recognizing Crimea as part of Russia would undermine the rules-based international order that was created with US leadership and has caused democracy to thrive around the world and made America a safer home for our citizens,” Corker said in a tweet, without directly mentioning Trump.
Indeed, the global community operates in a rules-based international order that Moscow has been violating with impunity for decades.
America’s latest foreign policy tenets of agreeing to disagree, proactive ambivalence, wishful naiveté, or ostrich optimism will not preserve peace in our time. Russia, regardless of who occupies the Kremlin, must be convinced that its opposite in the free world is resolute in defending the free world against any encroachments.
Americans should write their elected officials, insisting that Helsinki 2018 will not repeat Yalta 1945.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Take Putin’s Saber Rattling Seriously
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has again threatened Ukraine with dire consequences if it takes advantage of the global diversion created by the World Cup 2018 tournament in Russia and escalates its defensive military campaign against Russian invaders.
Putin’s latest words of war and the confluence of Russian activities and maneuvers certainly point to an ominous conclusion for Ukraine and the x-captive nations as Moscow seeks to restore its torn curtain. Moscow’s quest for domination is also visible in Syria as well as the United States and other democratic countries where it is undermining long-established national values.
A week before the soccer games were to begin, in reply to a Russian writer who advises Russian warriors in the Russian-occupied Donbas region of Ukraine, Putin commented about the possibility of Ukraine – not Russia – launching military action during the month-long tournament.
“I hope that there won’t be any provocations but, if it happens, I think it would have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood in general,” Putin warned.
In other words, Russia’s führer put Ukraine on notice that it could endure a massive military invasion and lose its independence if it escalates defending its country and people while Russians and others are playing soccer. These obnoxious words stated by a known criminal should be enough for the victim to raise its stakes against the lawbreaker, sever all diplomatic, political and commercial relations, and expel Russian soldiers and their mercenary-terrorist allies out of Ukraine.
So that Putin’s words would not be misconstrued, his Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov explained to journalists: “You know, President Putin is extremely clear about what he thinks and speaks his mind, so everything here has been said unequivocally. The question was, what would happen if Ukraine took advantage of the World Cup and decided to go on an offensive in Donbas, once again to unleash a war, bloody and fratricidal. President Putin answered very unequivocally.”
Peskov ironically absolved Russia of any culpability in unleashing a second or third front against Ukraine with or without Kyiv’s provocation.
Five years ago Putin also used the guise of an international event to caution Ukraine of dire consequences to its statehood if it continues to shed its Russian chains.
In the August 19, 2013, edition of The Torn Curtain 1991, I wrote that while attending the observance of the 1025th anniversary of Kiyvan-Rus Christianity in Kyiv, Putin raised his rhetoric about forcibly returning Ukraine to the Russian prison of nations.
At the time, as weeks remained for Ukraine’s accession to the EU Association Agreement and Kyiv’s intentions of doing so become clearer, Russia became more vocal with its threat to punish Kyiv for continuing to dissolve captive relations with Moscow.
Amid a host of religious, predominantly Orthodox spiritual leaders, Putin on Saturday, July 27, 2013, urged Ukraine to join forces with former fellow Soviet state Russia, its colonial overlord, saying Russians and Ukrainians were “one people.” Putin regularly reiterates this idiotic and inaccurate fraternal theme.
Moscow’s imperial intentions then were not lost on global news media sources. Headlines trumpeted Russia’s intentions: “Russia Worried as Ukraine Creeps Closer to EU,” “Russia Accused of Trade War against Ukraine,” “Russia Tightens Customs Rules to Force Ukraine into Union,” “Putin Grasps Ukraine Warmly by the Throat,” “Moscow Starts Realizing Plan to Prevent Ukraine from Signing Association Agreement with EU and Pull Country to Customs Union, Say Media Reports,” and others.
Putin’s words was not empty chest-beating meant to scare the x-caption nations into obedience. Then President Viktor Yanukovych did abandon plans to sign the EU Association Agreement and in response Ukrainian students took to the streets across Ukraine and toppled Lenin and Stalin monuments and ultimately him. Six months later, after the Revolution of Dignity and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia invaded Ukraine first via Crimea and then Donbas thus launching the latest bloody war in Europe.
History repeats itself today. With Russian forces unexpectedly mired in a more than four-year war against skilled and committed Ukrainian soldiers, Putin has resorted to terrorizing Ukraine into yielding to Russia’s will.
Reportedly, the Russian navy has been seen preparing for new operations as a sign of prowess. Russian Ministry of Defense sources said on June 14 that its naval forces in the Black Sea, near Crimea, had been put on heightened state of combat readiness to scare Ukraine from trying to disrupt the World Cup.
Ukrainian National Security Council Secretary Oleksandr Turchynov did not comment directly on the Russian deployments. Asked if Ukraine was planning provocations, Turchynov’s office said in a statement: “Regardless of the moaning of scared Russian mercenaries and the threats of the Russian president, the Ukrainian military will act in a way appropriate to the threats.”
Russia is also intensifying military activity on the ground. Press secretary of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Col. Oleksandr Motuzianyk reported that Russian occupation command has intensified the work on equipping fire positions along the contact line in Donbas. “According to the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the Russian occupation command intensified the work on equipping fire positions along the contact line. At the same time, the engineering units of the so-called 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian occupation troops are carrying out terrain mining with the use of Russian-made anti-personnel mines, which are prohibited by international law,” he said according to UNIAN. The official also said the enemy has expanded mined areas as a result of its chaotic mining on the orders of the advanced units’ commanders to prevent the desertion of subordinates by blowing them up.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern about the unauthorized movement on June 14 of military equipment and weapons of the Operational Group of Russian Forces, accompanied by unconstitutional militia structures, in the Transnistrian region of Moldova. That day, a huge column of Russian armored and transport vehicles was spotted on the Tiraspol-Rybnitsa highway, a few kilometers from the southern border with Ukraine.
The recently opened Kerch Strait Bridge on the Sea of Azov can be used not only for commercial traffic but also to allow Russia to drastically improve military logistics into the occupied Crimea, according to Andriy Klimenko, head of the supervisory board at the Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation, expert on Crimea, and editor-in-chief at BlackSeaNews. Klimenko pointed out that previously, tanks, armored vehicles, missiles, trailers and personnel would have to be transported to Crimea by ferry, which involved loading on Russia’s Taman Peninsula, crossing the Kerch Strait only in favorable navigation periods, then unloading in Kerch, with further deployment across the territory of the annexed peninsula.
“Now all these loading and unloading operations of military equipment and personnel are no longer needed. They can quickly deploy in Crimea everything necessary and further build up their [military] grouping in Crimea,” Klimenko explained.
He noted that during the Crimea occupation in 2014, women and children were put in front of Russian troops as the latter started blocking Ukrainian Navy and Army bases in Crimea.
“In this case, it won’t be about creating a corridor to Crimea through Mariupol and Berdyansk – in this case it will be about [invading] part of Ukraine along the Dnipro’s left bank, that is, the seizure of entire Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk regions and parts of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, to say the least. It was no coincidence that Putin talked about grave consequences for the Ukrainian statehood as such. That is, he threatens entire Ukraine with aggression,” Klimenko emphasized.
Nearby Poland is also subject to escalated Russian threats. Stars and Stripes reported on June 18 that the Russian military has renovated an underground bunker 50 miles from Poland that could be an active nuclear weapons storage site, a nuclear watchdog group said.
A series of satellite images analyzed by the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists show one of three underground bunkers in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad being excavated, renovated and then covered, the group said in a report.
“The latest upgrade obviously raises questions about what the operational status of the site is,” wrote Hans M. Kristensen, director of the nuclear information project at FAS.
The United Nations has taken note of Russia’s military escalation by expressing grave concern over the recent deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine and its “severe impact” on civilians. The United Nations Security Council condemned “continuous violations of the ceasefire regime, especially the use of heavy weapons prohibited by the Minsk agreements, responsible for tragic deaths, including among civilians.” It called for implementation of disengagement commitments and the “immediate withdrawal” of heavy weapons in accordance with relevant provisions of the Minsk agreements.
Noting the bloodiest month in the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18, the US again urged Russia to withdraw from eastern Ukraine, a day after Putin threated Kyiv with “dire consequences.”
“May was the bloodiest month this year for Ukrainian soldiers defending their country against Russian aggression: ten killed and 91 wounded,” Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the Department of State, tweeted. “The United States stands with Ukraine and calls on Russia to withdraw its forces from Donbas,” she added, using the hashtag #Peace4Ukraine.
Where will Russia’s escalation lead?
Volodymyr Gorbulin, who served as national security and defense secretary a member of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk to resolve the conflict in Donbas, predicts the war could turn Ukraine into a Ukrainian Chechnya. Indeed, Russia could freeze the war and turn the country into a target range with daily drive-by shootings and bombings.
The Russian government is raising its political stakes in Ukraine and is planning a “year of terror” in Ukraine, Gorbulin said. Russia’s strategy consists of more political assassinations, deaths and social chaos in order to make the idea of capitulation more attractive when selecting candidates in next year’s presidential (March) and parliamentary (October) elections in Ukraine.
“And there will always be ‘constructive politicians’ at hand who will propose ‘reconciliation’ and ‘ending this senseless war’,” wrote Gorbulin, the director of the National Institute of Strategic Research of Ukraine. “Everything will be initiated for their sake. For the sake of the fears of Ukrainian citizens and their indecisiveness. To show that Russia can do anything on this territory that it wants. And that it can’t be defeated.”
Finally, Radio Poland quoted Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, an outspoken critic of Putin, as saying that the threat of Russia invading Lithuania remains high, but will be countered if her country shows that it can and is ready to defend itself, the Unian news agency reported on June 20, citing an interview the Lithuanian leader gave to a German magazine.
“The likelihood (of Russian invasion) is high if we don’t constantly defend ourselves,” Grybauskaite said in the interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel. “If we demonstrate that we are able and willing to defend ourselves, no one will attack us.” Grybauskaite said Lithuania should be “politically and technologically” prepared for a possible Russian attack.
Grybauskaite told Der Spiegel that “Russian troops on the border with the Baltics and Poland are ten times stronger than those of NATO.” She said, as quoted by Unian, Western states are naive in their assessment of Russia and will “wake up” only “when they have been attacked” and “notice that Russia interferes in their interests, spies on them or manipulates their elections.”
Grybauskaite has warned that Russia’s threat goes beyond Lithuania, Ukraine and the other x-captive nations. We’ve seen Russia doing that in the United States since the elections of 2016 but Washington doesn’t get it that it’s not one or another political party but rather against the United States of America.
The Russian gauntlet lays before Ukraine, the x-captive nations and the free world. Hitler’s warning in “Mein Kampf” presaged World War II, and Putin’s threats have resulted in the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18. Is the free world listening to his saber rattling?

Saturday, June 2, 2018


The Russian Monster can be Defeated
To paraphrase Hans Christian Andersen: Russia is vulnerable.
From the battlefield, to the hallowed halls of the United Nations, and to an urban crime scene, imperial Russia last week fell flat on its cold-blooded face with a thud heard round the world raising the real specter that it can be defeated.
BATTLEFIELD
Russian invaders are fast realizing that their earlier gains in the war against Ukraine are now threatened by a battle-tested Ukrainian army. UNIAN reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces on May 22 destroyed an enemy position near the village of Troyitske at the Svitlodarska Duha hill in Donbas.
Ukrainian volunteer and civil activist Yuriy Mysyagin wrote on his Facebook page that Russian-led forces had begun firing on the frontline positions of the 54th brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “The K-2 combat group, which is part of the brigade, reacted and launched its drone. The (enemy) position from which fire was opened was identified,” Mysyagin wrote.
“The position was completely destroyed by precision fire from three different positions: a BMP-1 (infantry fighting vehicle), ZU-23-2 (a towed 23 mm anti-aircraft twin-barreled auto cannon) and an anti-tank guided missile, which became a security shot. The facility burned and collapsed,” Mysyagin added.
On May 28, Mysyagin wrote about additional battlefield victories and called on Ukrainians to have faith in the army and help it to protect the native land.
Ukrainian soldiers of the 25th battalion of the 54th brigade were forced to relocate several of their advanced positions at the Svitlodarska Duha bulge. “They took a new strategic height, expanded by several hundred meters and advanced as much forward,” he wrote on Facebook.
He also noted that in addition to improving its tactical positions, the battalion took full control of the advanced position left by the Russian terrorists. In fact, it turned out to be a fortified underground bunker. Excavators were used to build it and a container was installed under the ground and the position was fortified with a wooden frame and concrete.
“Now this fortified position is under full control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” Mysyagin said.
Ukrainian Member of Parliament and leader of the Information Resistance OSINT community Dmytro Tymchuk observed that despite a recent escalation in Donbas, there is no significant transfer of regular troops from Russia to the area, so the militants are unlikely to have any chances for large-scale operations.
Under current conditions, the Russian militants have almost no chance of carrying out successful attacks on the positions of Ukrainian troops, he said. “It is difficult to say how much tension will grow. We should understand if we take the current configuration of the occupation forces and those formations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that are involved in the joint Forces Operation, the militants have no chances for any large-scale offensive operation at the operational-tactical level,” he said. “But amid escalation, which is now being observed, we do not yet see any large-scale transfer of troops from Russia to the occupied territory of Donbas. The situation may change at any time, but we do not see that at the moment,” Tymchuk said.
And now Ukrainian soldiers are reinforced by American Javelin anti-tank missiles.
MH17
A Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded that the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine in 2014 actually came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade. As Ukraine said at the time, the Russian launched missile show down MH17 over the war zone in the Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising authorities from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, made the announcement at a press conference on May 24 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The JIT “has come to the conclusion that the Buk-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia,” top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen told reporters. “The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia’s armed forces.”
Moscow can scream all it wants, but the Netherlands and Australia told Moscow on Friday it will hold the Russia legally responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014, after investigators concluded that a Russian army missile system was used in the attack. And the world will know the truth about Russia.
In a related revelation, investigators led by Bellingcat, British investigative journalists’ website, identified conclusively that the person of interest known as “Andrey Ivanovich” or “Orion,” whose identity is sought by the Joint Investigating Team as commander of the Russian unit that destroyed MH17 is in fact Russian citizen Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov, born on April 2, 1967. He is also responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.
UNITED NATIONS
Condemnations of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have been reverberating in the halls of the United Nations since the war began. And the Ukrainian delegation is not the only source of the denunciations – though, understandably, it leads the diplomatic community in doing so.
Recently, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, declared: “In the history of the United Nations there are numerous examples of violations of the Charter. I will bring up the most recent and blatant one. Russia’s temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine clearly demonstrate that the violation of fundamental principles of international law by a permanent member of the Security Council is one of the most serious threats to peace and security.”
Russia faced sharp criticism at a special session on Ukraine in the UN Security Council on Tuesday, May 29, over the its invasion of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and its rejection of an investigation linking the Russian military to the downing of MH17 over Ukraine.
Among them, Ambassador Nikki Haley, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN, called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and acknowledge its role in the destruction of the commercial plane.
“We condemn, in the strongest terms, Russia’s involvement in eastern Ukraine and its purported annexation of Crimea,” Haley said, promising US sanctions will remain in place until Russia withdraws from the long-simmering conflict, which she called “a textbook example of the direct violation of the sovereignty of one (UN) member-state by another member state.”
Haley further accused Russia of creating “a catastrophe of suffering,” by supporting separatist groups and violating its obligations under an international cease fire agreement.
“Unsurprisingly, Russia has serially disregarded all of these promises. And it has permitted – if not instructed – its forces to detain, threaten, and even shoot at monitors, their vehicles, cameras, and observation drones. In short, Russia has created a catastrophe of suffering in Ukraine,” she said.
“Despite its transparent denials,” said Haley, “there is no doubt Russia is driving the Ukrainian conflict.”
Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, Ambassador Karen Pierce declared that London we stands “in solidarity with the Ukrainian people.”
Pierce also said: “Since 2014, the fighting in eastern Ukraine has continued unabated. The Under Secretary-General set out some compelling facts of what is happening on the ground. But I think for me, Mr. President, one of the most shocking was that there have been over 100,000 violations of the ceasefire. That’s 100,000 too many, but 100,000 is a very, very large number. And we should just think about what that really means for the people on the ground. Not only the conflict, but also the resulting humanitarian situation as the Assistant Secretary-General said, and also the potential for long-term environmental damage. These are the many reasons why the topic of Ukraine needs to be on the Council’s agenda and to be repeatedly discussed here.”
She noted that Russian belligerents demonstrate complete disregard for the Minsk ceasefire.
As for Crimea, Pierce pointed out: “A number of speakers, Mr. President, have cited Crimea. We share the view that the annexation of Crimea four years ago by Russia is illegal and it is in violation of the first principle of international law. General Assembly Resolutions 68-262, 71-205 and 72-190 reaffirm the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine and the absence of any legal basis to change the status of Crimea. These resolutions characterized Russia as an occupying power.”
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, who presided over the Security Council session, renewed his call for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed to east Ukraine and urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy for Ukraine.  Czaputowicz said Warsaw supports Ukraine’s efforts to “become part of Western Europe.”
In his speech, the Polish official said 2018 marked the fourth anniversary of the “Revolution of Dignity,” referring to the Ukrainian revolution which toppled President Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin’s henchman. Czaputowicz said the revolution was sparked by the will of the Ukrainian people to be part of the broader community of the West.
“This spirit will not be broken,” he stated, “either by the illegal annexation of Crimea or the conflict in the east of the country.”
He also pointed to the systematic violation of human rights in the Crimean peninsula since it was invaded, occupied and annexed by Russia in 2014.
Urging the international community not to forget the lingering war, he cited systematic human rights violations by the Russian Federation in the occupied territories and called on the United Nations to take up its role in defense of civilians.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, dramatically raised the emotional stakes at the session by holding up a photograph of 15-year Dariya Kazemirova, who turned 15 a week ago and a day later she was killed in the backyard of her home in an explosion of a 122 mm Russian shell that is prohibited by Minsk agreements.
“I will ask the Russian delegate: is this shell from the latest so-called humanitarian convoy? Or did the Russian proxies buy heavy ammunition and weaponry in local supermarkets?” Klimkin insisted.
While Ukraine is willing to fulfill the Minsk ceasefire accords, Klimkin said, “Russia’s persistent denial of its responsibility as a party to the conflict have a devastating impact on the situation on the ground.”
Klimkin accused Russia of concealing heavy weapons that have been banned under the truce only to reveal then when it is time to attack and inflict substantial losses among military personnel and civilian population.
“The activities of Russia’s occupation authorities are already causing an ecological disaster in Donbas. The shootings carried out by Russia in the vicinity of the Donetsk Water Filter Station make operation of this critical infrastructure facility impossible. The plans of the occupation administration to shut off pumps at the Yunkom mine — the site of Soviet nuclear test in 1979 — risk radioactive contamination of drinking water,” he said.
Klimkin said the war in eastern Ukraine can easily stop as “soon as Moscow takes the decision to stop violence, the conflict will end. I urge Russia to take this decision.”
The first step in assuring regional peace, he suggested, is to deploy UN Peacekeepers throughout the occupied territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
So that no one is confused about Ukraine’s goal, Klimkin resolutely added Kyiv stands for “reintegration of all of our Donbas,” meaning Kyiv will not allow it to be absorbed into Russia’s restored prison of nations.
Turning to the Russian occupation of Crimea, Klimkin said Russia’s invasion, occupation and annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula constitute the “most flagrant breach of the UN Charter since the World War II,” challenging the “norms and rules of international law and created the atmosphere of fear and hatred.”
The result has been an accelerated militarization of Crimea, he said. Russia has more than doubled the strength of its military and continues expanding Crimean military infrastructure for deployment of nuclear weapons, including overhaul of Soviet-era nuclear warhead storage facilities. “In fact, Crimea today is a huge military base often used for Russian interventions in distant hot spots, including Syria. In return, the Syrian regime thankfully sends delegations to Crimea and as it happened today recognized so-called independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” he said.
On the human side, Russian occupation is characterized by gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, blatant suppression of opposition and systematic persecution of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians as the most vulnerable communities, Klimkin said.
“Along with killings and enforced disappearances, intimidation and fierce attacks on the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian identity and culture, the phenomenon of political prisoners has become the sad reality in the Russia-occupied Crimea. My courageous compatriots fight now not only for freedom and justice, but for their lives as well,” he said.
Klimkin listed individuals persecuted by the Russian regime for protesting Crimea’s subjugation, notably Oleh Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, Emir-Usein Kuku, Nariman Memedeminov, Server Mustafaiev, Edem Smailov, Uzeir Abdullaiev and many other Crimean Tatars, who now need support of the international community. “Using this opportunity, I urge the Security Council members and the wider UN community to join our call on Russia to free them,” he asked. “Russia continues its blatant disregard for the provisions of UN General Assembly resolutions on Crimea.”
He said the list of Russia’s human rights violations is “practically endless.”
Klimkin condemned the opening of the Kerch bridge and said it is another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. He expressed gratitude to those countries that denounced this “attempt to cement the illegal occupation of Crimea” and urged all other countries and organizations, including the UN, to support this position.
Exhorting Russia to reverse the illegal occupation of Crimea and to stop its aggression, Klimkin concluded his address at the Security Council session, saying he has been compelled to present detailed lists and stories of Russia aggression against Ukraine because “this issue is a matter of life and death of many of my fellow Ukrainians.”
“There is nothing I would have wanted more than being able to tell you that we reached a resolution of the conflict,” he said. “But since the end is nowhere near in sight, we will not spare any effort to ensure that justice is served and the Russian state bears full responsibility for its aggression.”
Since the start of the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014, more than 10,300 Ukrainians have been killed, 25,000 were injured, and 3.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, particularly along the front lines.
For his part, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia ridiculed what he termed “pathetic expressions” accusing Russia of aggression as “propaganda.”
“We are not in a state of war with anyone,” Nebenzia lied in his characteristically impassioned remarks, which were often laced with sarcasm and peppered with heated criticism of the Ukrainian government.
He profanely insisted that it is Kyiv, not Moscow, that has undermined the cease fire and stoked the conflict.
Speaking for more than half an hour, Nebenzia dismissed Haley’s criticism, as his predecessors dismissed Ambassador Samantha Power’s reproaches, noting the United States’ “long history of illegally invading sovereign states.”
No, he didn’t make any reference to Russia’s own history of invading and subjugating nations around the world.
THE STING AND RUSSIA MURDER INC.
In a storyline worthy of Ian Fleming, the Security Service of Ukraine devised a historic gambit that proved its stealth and saved the life of a targeted Russian journalist and uncovered the would-be Russian assassins.
The world media said the assassination bore all the trappings of yet another contract killing planned by Russia, this time in Ukraine.
A photo of the victim, Arkady Babchenko, regarded as an anti-Putin Russian journalist, showed him lying face down Tuesday, May 29, in a pool of his own blood. He was found by his wife, and died on the way to a hospital from multiple gunshot wounds to the back, said police in Ukraine’s capital.
Then lo and behold, the next day, Babchenko, very much alive, walked into a news conference that Ukrainian security officials had called to discuss his “murder.” It was like a Gary Powers news conference in reverse. This time Moscow was guilty.
“First of all, I would like to apologize that all of you had to live through this, because I know the horrible feeling when you have to bury your colleagues,” Babchenko told stunned reporters after the gasps died down. “Separately, I want to apologize to my wife for all the hell she had to go through.”
The staged murder, said Vasyl Hrytsak, head of the Ukraine Security Service, was a sting operation aimed at stopping a real assassination plot against Babchenko.
While Russian officials first denied the plot and then tried to explain it with egg on their faces, Ukrainian officials unveiled a scheme that called for a Ukrainian traitor to kill Babchenko for $30,000 – American currency. The whole lot of them was busted.
While some media pundits decried this successful entrapment, The Wall Street Journal in an editorial on May 31 was blistering in this indictment of Moscow, declaring: Russia Murder Inc., a spin on the epithet usually afforded American gangsters and the Mafia. The newspaper’s editors wrote:
“The message of this extraterritorial murder and intimidation spree is that nowhere is safe for Kremlin critics, and it’s good to see that Western countries are finally responding. After the Russian nerve-agent attack in March on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, Britain expelled Russian spies and is considering more measures. The Trump Administration has sanctioned Mr. Putin’s inner circle and lobbied countries like Latvia to stop laundering Russian money.
“More needs to be done to expose and stop Russian Murder Inc., and let’s hope Ukraine tells the world more about this latest plot to kill Mr. Babchenko.”
WORLD CUP 2018
Sixty members of the European Parliament from 16 EU countries and five political groups have seen the light about Russia’s global transgressions. They signed an open letter calling upon EU governments to boycott the FIFA World Cup 2018, which will be held in August in Russia. The letter was initiated by Rebecca Harms, expert on Eastern Europe of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament.
The letter calls on government officials, who represent EU citizens, to join Island and the UK in boycotting the World Cup over Russia’s wars in Syria and Ukraine, war crimes in Syria, occupation of Crimea, and holding of Ukrainian political prisoners.
In addition, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on world leaders to boycott the games’ opening ceremony – only – of the World Cup soccer tournament in Russia unless Russian President Vladimir Putin takes steps to protect Syrian civilians.
CONCLUSION
So why is Russia still tolerated?
The free world should take all steps to ensure that Russia doesn’t wash the mud off its face.
Officials like Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, implored the international community to end what he called “Russia-bashing.” Juncker said he believed it was time to renew ties with Vladimir Putin’s country, given its size and importance. Not to mention its military strength and global aggression.
“I do think we have to reconnect with Russia,” Juncker said. “I am not very happy with the state of our relations. We will never accept what Russia did with Crimea or eastern Ukraine.”
On the other hand, Russia’s fuhrer Vladimir Putin would happily accept Juncker’s inconsequential reprimand.
Russia will not implode tomorrow and Juncker’s observation will not keep Moscow from waging war against any other country on earth. That will only happen if the free world mobilizes all of its political, military and diplomatic resources to cage Russia’s belligerence. The time is now because the Russian monster is vulnerable.

Monday, May 28, 2018


Boot Russia off UN Security Council
The hypocrisy of international diplomacy has no bounds especially when it pertains to Russia.
Information that recently came to light about Russia’s crimes against humanity complements the cruelty of its previous offenses. Taken together they should be enough to eject Moscow from its unworthy permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
At the United Nations, Ukrainian officials continue to detail Russia’s intransigent belligerence and question if Russia deserves to exercise veto power and enjoy permanent membership on the Security Council. Ironically, despite possessing this information, the UN and the international community refuse to take action against outlaw Russia beyond adopting critical resolutions.
In a statement during an open debate at the UN Security Council on May 22 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Serhiy Kyslytsya described a litany of daily abuses, dangers and human rights violations that civilians in war-torn eastern Ukraine are enduring due to Russia’s invasion.
Kyslytsya decried the global organization’s duplicity when dealing with protecting civilians caught in the midst Russia’s more than four-year war against Ukraine. He said the UN had committed itself to ensuring the safety of civilians in 1999 but, sadly, as this pertains to Ukraine, “Almost two decades passed by and we all still ‘express concern,’ ‘strongly condemn.’ ‘urge, call and underline’ and so on and so forth.”
The Ukrainian official caustically accused the United Nations of perpetuating its own impotence through inaction. Kyslytsya stated: “As long as impunity rules the day, as long as some UN member states, including one well known permanent member, could not care less about implementing decisions of the ICJ, this Council is doomed to go in circles around the issue of protection of civilians – addressing it but never really solving it.
“It is all akin to putting a Band Aid on a badly bleeding open wound – a lot of effort is being applied, lots of Band Aids may be dispensed, but the patient still does not get any better.”
Understandably, in the hallowed halls of the UN Security Council, where Moscow wields significant power, a much-needed resolution calling for mobilizing a global military coalition to subdue Russia that would reestablish regional and global peace, security and stability would not be approved. As a result, Kyslytsya was left to insist on an escalation of international pressure against Russia. He called on all UN member-states – “no matter how big or small, no matter how rich or poor” – to commit to follow established norms of international law. Furthermore, he said, actions of those that choose to ignore laws, such as Russia, must to “be met with the most resolute response from the international community.”
Kyslytsya indicated that in the absence of a “supranational body” to enforce international law, the global community of law-abiding countries has the responsibility of quell transgressors and aggressors that abuse international law and order for their own aggrandizement.
The Russian war against Ukraine in eastern Ukraine has resulted in an incredible humanitarian emergency that rarely appears on front pages of newspapers or leads the nightly news, Kyslytsya said. Nearly 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed, 10,000 civilian casualties, 25,000 civilian wounded since February 2014, and countless buildings, homes and schools destroyed.
He also listed the following points:
·         4.4 million people living in the war affected areas;
·         3.4 million people from the Donbas region now require humanitarian assistance and protection;
·         1.5 million registered internally displaced persons;
·         Ukraine has increased by more than 6 times budgetary allocations for monthly cash payouts to the affected people;
·         Bureaucratic red tape has been substantially cut to simplify and ease access to social services;
·         Psychological support services for those, who need them, are provided by the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine;
·         The Ukrainian authorities are doing their utmost to ensure continuous functioning in the Donbas region of objects of critical infrastructure that benefit local population;
·         Ukrainian sappers have cleared more than 1,000 mines and other ordnance from civilian structures;
·         More than 150,000 explosive remnants of war, including almost 1,000 of improvised explosive devices, purposefully set up by the Russian backed forces, have been rendered harmless;
·         Russians continue to disregard life and limb. On February 20 Ukrainian military medic Sabina Halytska was killed while riding in a vehicle clearly marked by a red cross. The vehicle was struck by a Russian antitank guided missile. She was only 23.
A few days earlier, on May 17, also at the Security Council, Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN, commenting on Russia’s arrogant deceit, challenged the UN system to hold accountable member-states’ support for peace and war by assessing their contributions to implementing the UN Charter. In other words, are they putting their money where their mouths are?
“In the history of the United Nations there are numerous examples of violations of the Charter. I will bring up the most recent and blatant one. Russia’s temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and territories in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine clearly demonstrate that the violation of fundamental principles of international law by a permanent member of the Security Council is one of the most serious threats to peace and security,” Yelchenko observed.
“Just think back to mid-2013 and try to recall the situation in the world then. Now fast forward five years and look around. It is a dangerous downward spiral that we find ourselves in right now. The responsibility lies squarely with the Russian Federation, which without any remorse committed what is clearly defined by General Assembly resolution 3314 of 14 December 1974 as an act of aggression against my country both in Crimea and Donbas.”
Yelchenko said Russia’s “worrying trend” of “transgressions and wrongful acts” were also perpetrated in Moldova, Georgia and Syria.
The Ukrainian ambassador believes that Russia is able to commit these violations with impunity because of its “systematic abuse of the veto right and the blatant neglect by the said Council member of its obligation to maintain peace and security.” Simply stated, Russia is a shameless liar, everyone knows it and no one cares. Global leaders still throng to embrace Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
Consequently, he continued, Ukraine is convinced that UN Security Council reform will be incomplete without at least limiting the veto power of law-breaking permanent members. Such a step would lead to increased Security Council’s accountability to the UN general membership.
Yelchenko underlined that Ukraine does not intend to use force against Russia to bring it into line with international norms but rather favors peaceful, legal and diplomatic means of conflict resolution. Ukraine counts on multilateralism, he added, by turning to the United Nations, OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international organizations, structures and mechanisms for support.
“And we will continue along that path. We are resorting to all means available to UN members-states to resolve the situation that arose as the result of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine,” he said.
In this vein, Ukraine initiated proceedings in the International Court of Justice against Russia regarding the Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In April, Ukraine requested the ICJ to provide a definitive interpretation of its order that was issued a year ago imposing provisional measures on Russia and remains unimplemented.
“We did this because the situation in the temporarily occupied Crimea continues to be characterized by gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and systematic persecution of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars. We are also witnessing further deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the occupied territories of Donbas,” Yelchenko stated.
The Ukrainian ambassador reiterated Kyiv’s demand that Russia reverse the occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, stop its aggression, withdraw its regular armed formations and mercenaries, weapons and equipment from temporarily occupied territories, and implement its commitments under the Minsk accords and international law, including international humanitarian law.
On the global stage, it is honorable to promote peaceful conflict resolution. Hopefully, the Ukrainian nation will not be annihilated before peaceful actions take hold.
Russia’s crimes against humanity grow. After four years, a Dutch-led international criminal investigation has concluded what most have known that the Buk missile that shot down civilian airliner Malaysian flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 came from Russia’s 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade. MH17 was shot down over the conflict zone in Ukraine’s Donetsk region on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board. The Joint Investigative Team (JIT), comprising officials from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, made the announcement at a press conference on May 24 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The JIT “has come to the conclusion that the Buk-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from the 53rd Antiaircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia,” top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen told reporters. “The 53rd Brigade is part of Russia’s armed forces.”
Furthermore, investigators led by Bellingcat, British investigative journalists’ website, identified conclusively that the person of interest known as “Andrey Ivanovich” or “Orion,” whose identity is sought by the Joint Investigating Team in connection with the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17, is in fact Russian citizen Oleg Vladimirovich Ivannikov, born on April 2, 1967.
Ivannikov must be declared a war crimes perpetrator, a criminal against humanity like Nazi Adolf Eichmann.
Bellingcat said it has determined with very high certainty that at the time of the downing of MH17, Ivannikov was an officer of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Ministry of Defense (GRU), and served in that function until at least as late as September 2017.
The reporting team also said it has determined with high certainty that Ivannikov was the person with the covert name “Andrey Ivanovich,” who, according to multiple reports by Russian militant commanders and separatists fighting in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), was military adviser and de facto handler of the political leadership of the LNR in 2014. 
Bellingcat reported that Ivannikov was deployed in Ukraine at an undetermined point in the first half of 2014, and remained there at least until early 2015. During his undercover deployment to LNR, he coordinated and supervised the military activities of Russian militants, pro-Russian separatists and “private army” contingents from the Wagner group. Ivannikov also supervised the procurement and transport of weapons across the Russia Ukraine border.
As Russian crimes mount, they must be publically recorded so that future generations of Russians will feel the guilt and shame of their predecessors’ actions and ask, why did you kill Ukrainians and other innocent people. Russia, Putin, Ivannikov and Russian commanders and soldiers in Ukraine must be held accountable for their crimes in The Hague.
It will take courage, self-confidence and dedication to follow through with this suit and expelling Russia from the UN Security Council but without it, we will leave future generations vulnerable to Russian invasions, crimes, abuses and human rights violations.

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Sentsov, Ukrainian in Russian Prison, Declares Indefinite Hunger Strike
Ukrainians have been down this torturous path many times during the past millennia as Russia has threateningly hovered over the nation, voraciously clawing at its independence, sovereignty and national identity.
Fortunately, the Ukrainian nation has been blessed with many heroic role models. The men and women in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who today are heroically defending their country and nation from Russian invaders, are the visible war heroes that are leaving a valiant legacy for the younger generation.
Oleh Sentsov, a 42-year-old Ukrainian filmmaker who was born in Crimea, is this generation’s gallant symbol of resolute national, non-military resistance to Russian aggression and oppression.
Sentsov’s fate is part of the never-ending chronicle of Russia’s cruelty against Ukrainians, destruction of their culture and language, and its mission to subjugate regardless of who is in power in the Kremlin.

Looking back the pages of recent history, the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia, came to an end on February 23. Five days later, Russia declared war on regional peace and security. Moscow escalated achieving its prime objective of re-subjugating Ukraine by invading and occupying the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, an act that was not impulsive but rather required months of logistical preparations while Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin junta cynically smiled and shook hands with gullible global leaders. You recall the scene from “The Godfather,” when Michael Corleone renounced satan in church while his hoods killed his enemies.
Thus began the Russo-Ukraine War of 2014-18, which also enveloped eastern Ukraine. The United Nations and the free world have condemned Moscow’s belligerence.
Sentsov, a Ukrainian and Crimean patriot, immediately joined the civilian movement to oppose Russia’s illegal occupation of his native region, which culminated with Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
Sentsov and his colleagues organized a massive pro-Ukrainian unity demonstration in Simferopol in hopes of preventing Russia’s plans for an illicit coup d’état. Civil activists observed that the event was poignantly described as a Day of Crimean Resistance given the huge price paid by the Crimean Tatar leaders and other Ukrainians who peacefully stood in defense of Ukraine on that day and in subsequent weeks and months as Russian soldiers and paramilitaries seized control of Crimea. Much like Nazi Germany seized Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavian nations and other countries.
The list of activists and those arrested is long, and includes Sentsov, human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku and a number of Crimean Tatars active in the Crimea Solidarity movement, which arose to help the ever-increasing number of political prisoners in Crimea and their families. It also includes three other opponents of Russia’s invasion and annexation: civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko, Hennadiy Afanasyev and Oleksiy Chyrniy.  All four were held incommunicado for up to three weeks, first in Simferopol, then in Moscow, almost certainly to hide the torture marks, according to their colleagues.
They were officially charged with terrorism and brought to a typical Russian show trial – or kangaroo court as it has been known throughout history. Stalin used them effectively to kill his opponents. The Crimean defendants’ case was one of the first of many attempted fake trials of Ukrainians, and was clearly aimed at justifying Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea by depicting Ukrainians as terrorists.
There was undeniably no evidence of terrorism and plans to commit violent crimes against the occupying regime. Nonetheless Moscow needed not only to punish them but to remove them from public view. But by incarcerating and exiling them, as it’s done many times in the past, the Kremlin ironically turned them into visible heroes, beacons for today’s generation. 
The FSB, the KGB’s successor, had imposed a regime of total secrecy until the trial of Sentsov and Kolchenko began in the summer of 2015. It became clear from the first day that the prosecution had no real evidence so on August 5, 2015, the Memorial Human Rights Center declared both Sentsov and Kolchenko to be political prisoners. It later made the same statement about Afanasyev, who was returned to Ukraine as part of an exchange, on health grounds.
Russia had also unlawfully declared that both men automatically became Russian citizens with its occupation of Crimea, and denied them access to the Ukrainian consul and their rights under international law.
Sentsov spoke of the torture he was subjected to since the start of his illegal incarceration.  He was told by the FSB that if he didn’t give testimony and confess as it demanded, he would be sentenced to 20 years and “rot in prison.”
Sentsov was recognized for his bravery under fire by being awarded the Andrei Sakharov Award for Courage, along with two other Ukrainians facing Russian persecution: journalists Mykola Semena and Roman Sushchenko.  The award is well-deserved in all cases but regarded as especially fitting given Sentsov’s powerful final address to the kangaroo court in Russia.  In those final words that will resonate loudly for many generations, Sentsov emphasized that he was not asking the Russian court for justice, as “a trial by occupiers cannot be just.”
In order to silence Sentsov and keep him isolated from public view, Russia transferred him to an infamous prison north of the Arctic Circle, as far from journalists and foreign representatives as the Kremlin could achieve. Apparently that notorious penal venue did not disappear with the death of Stalin and the Soviet Union. Putin keeps its gates open today and global leaders should remember that as they prepare to shake hands with him.
The sentences imposed on Sentsov, Kolchenko, Ruslan Zeytullaev, Mykola Karpyuk, Stanislav Klykh and many other Ukrainians are comparable to those used to silence opponents throughout Russian history.  Furthermore, they are applied against Ukrainians held thousands of kilometers from their families, in most of the cases because Russia wants to silence protest during its occupation of Ukrainian territories.
In addition to the Sakharov award, Sentsov was honored with the PEN America / Barbey Freedom to Write Award in 2016. In an enormously emotional letter in response to the award, Sentsov wrote:
“The last time I went to the Maidan, where people had already begun perishing, my mother said, ‘Why are you going there? You have two children!’ I answered that it was precisely because of that that I was going there—I don’t want them to live in a country of slaves. We won then, but it proved not to be the end. And the struggle continues, but now without me. I’m in prison and like any prisoner it is very difficult for me to answer a simple childish question: ‘Daddy, when are you coming home?’”
Sentsov is the father of two. His actions were intended to defend Ukrainian Crimea and Crimean Tatars from Russian subjugation but also to ensure that future Ukrainian generations would live in an independent Ukraine.
In 2016 his suffering was compounded when his wife decided to divorce with him, as the status of a wife of a political prisoner in Crimea deprives her of the opportunity to take out a mortgage and to buy a home for herself and two children.
Russian persecution of Sentsov pushed him to the precipice. His latest protest against Russian repression is a hunger strike that he began on Monday, May 14, in defense not of himself but of his fellow Ukrainian political inmates. Russia has imprisoned 64 Ukrainian national activists in occupied Crimea and Russia. 
According to his lawyer, Sentsov had been preparing for the hunger strike for about a month and a half by refusing to receive food parcels, avoiding the prison colony’s store, consuming thin broth and the minimum amount of food, preparing his body for starving. Sentsov sent a letter to the chief of the colony about his protest and the conditions for ending it.
In a handwritten Russian and Ukrainian-language note, he declared: “I, Oleh Sentsov, a Ukrainian citizen, sentenced illegally by a Russian court and held in a prison colony in Labytnangi, have declared a hunger strike, beginning 14 May 2018. My sole demand is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held in the Russian Federation. Together and to the end.  Glory to Ukraine!”
Ukrainian political prisoners always brought something of their own personal protest to the Russian concentration camps but throughout the ages all of them have shared the same battle cry “Glory to Ukraine!” – “Slava Ukrayini!”
Sentsov’s plight in Russian incarceration in the second decade of the 21st century harkens back to the 1970s, when an earlier generation of Ukrainian patriots fell victim to Russian repression.
Words by Valentyn Moroz, who spent 145 days on a hunger strike, at the conclusion of his trial still resound: “This is a heavy burden. To rot behind bars is not easy. Yet to have no respect for oneself, is even more difficult! And so we will fight! There will be a trial and all will begin again: new protests and petitions, more news stories for the world radio and press. Interest in Moroz’s writings will increase tenfold. Fresh fuel will be poured onto the fire - the very same fire you are trying to extinguish! Even this statement is subversive. But do not blame me for this ‘crime.’ I was not the one to jail Moroz. It was not I who threw the boomerang.”
Vasyl Stus’ words also come to mind: “I do not know when death will come for the others, but I personally feel it approaching. How good it is that I have no fear of dying.”
Stus was the fourth Ukrainian national activist to die in Soviet Russian custody in 28 months. His death followed that of his fellow Ukrainian Helsinki Group member Oleksiy Tykhy, by Yuriy Lytvyn, who committed suicide while serving his fourth term in prison, and by Valeriy Marchenko, whose kidneys failed him soon after he was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp.
Just like Sentsov, who couldn’t tolerate Russian aggression, persecution and occupation, so too couldn’t Stus who declared: “To be a Soviet citizen means to be a slave. I am not fit for such a role. The more I am tortured and abused, the greater is my resistance to my slavery and to the system of abuse of a man and his elementary rights.”
The US Department of State has urged Russia to immediately release all Ukrainian political prisoners. Spokesperson Heather Nauert stated on Twitter: “The United States stands with Oleh Sentsov and calls on Russia to release all Ukrainian political prisoners immediately.”
Sensing the perilous situation faced by Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin declared at a recent ministerial session of the Council of Europe that he’d start speaking about the Ukrainian hostages of the Kremlin. “It’s not about politics anymore, it’s about the lives and destinies of people. Oleh Sentsov has declared an indefinite hunger strike demanding release of all Ukrainian political prisoners held by Russia. Volodymyr Balukh, Uzeir Abdullaev, dozens of others in critical conditions, tortured by the Kremlin. Raise your voice to stop the Kremlin's tyranny!”
Indeed, we, in the free world, must also raise our voices to stop Russia’s tyranny.
Show your support for Ukrainian political prisoners by sending them a letter, which they regard as “a breath of freedom.”
Letters of support to Sentsov should be addressed:
РФ, 629400 Ямало-Ненецкий автономный округ, город Лабытнанги, улица Северная 33.
Сенцову Олегу Геннадьевичу, 1976 г.р.
[Russian Federation, 629400, Yamalo-Nenetsky autonomous okrug, Labytnangi, Severnaya St, 33
Sentsov, Oleh Hennadievych, b. 1976]
Letters to Oleksandr Kolchenko should be addressed:
РФ,  456612, Челябинская обл., Копейск, ул. Кемеровская, 20.,
Кольченко Александру Олександровичу, 1989 г.р.
[Russian Federation, 456612, Chelyabinsk obl., Kopeisk, Kemerovskaya St, 20
Kolchenko, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, 1989]
Inform your senators and congressmen about the plight of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia and ask them to demand that Russia immediately release them and evacuate its invading army from Ukraine.
Sports fans, soccer officials and players, and sponsors bear in mind the kind of country and regime that you are supporting by attending the World Cup 2018. Respect yourselves and Ukrainian political prisoners by boycotting the tournament.
#FreeSentsov