Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 20, 2016 (USA TODAY) The Trump administration greeted his Ukrainian counterpart at the White House with the announcement of a new set of sanctions on Russia – though Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko took the opportunity to warn Trump against future dealings with Moscow. In brief comments to reporters about his meeting with President Petro Poroshenko, Trump said the leaders had "some very, very good discussions" and that Ukraine is "a place that we've all been very much involved in." As Poroshenko arrived at the White House, the Treasury Department said it is targeting 38 individuals and entities "involved in the ongoing conflict" with Ukraine over the Russian occupation of Crimea. Russia "annexed" the region of Ukraine in 2014, and has backed pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine; the Treasury sanctions list includes Ukrainian separatists and officials of the Russia government.
Poroshenko, who called the White House visit "a great pleasure," said earlier that discussing Russia's president Vladimir Putin would be part of his agenda with Trump. “It is very important that my meeting, as Ukrainian President, in the White House will take place earlier than the meeting of Putin,” Poroshenko said in a statement, adding that his goal would be to "provide information and leave no chance for injustice."
Amid waves of tensions between the United States and Russia – including an investigation into Moscow's attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign – there is currently no personal meeting scheduled between Trump and Putin, though the two leaders may meet at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Germany in early July.
Poroshenko, who had a pre-scheduled meeting with Vice President Pence, had a "drop-in" visit with Trump and national security adviser H.R. McMaster. The talks took place amid investigations by congressional committees and a special counsel into any links between Trump campaign associates and Russians who sought to interfere in the 2016 elections by hacking Democratic Party officials.
During the campaign and in the months since Trump's inauguration, critics have accused the president of being too supportive of Putin, and expressed concern that he might seek to unwind existing sanctions on Russia. The Senate has passed a bill that would hit Russia with more sanctions over its election activities, and limit Trump's ability to undo any penalties on Putin's government requiring a congressional review of any such action. For its part, the Treasury Department said its actions Tuesday underscore the U.S. commitment to "maintain the strength of existing sanctions" as a step to resolve the Ukraine crisis – and the measures related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula.
These designations will maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements."
Later Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer also affirmed the U.S. wants Russia out of eastern Ukraine. "That's part of the reason that there are sanctions," he said. The United States and Russia are also at odds over the Syrian civil war.
Over the weekend, a U.S. fighter jet downed a Syrian warplane for the first time, an act Russia condemned as a "flagrant violation of international law." Russia also said it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft as targets if they drift into certain parts of Syrian airspace.

Back at the White House, Poroshenko thanked the United States for its support in its struggle with Russia, and said that "I'm absolutely confident that our effective coordination will bring the peace to our nation, to our land, and can support our territorial integrity and sovereignty." Trump was less specific in his own remarks about Ukraine and the conflict there, describing the country only as “a place that we’ve all been very much involved in” and “you’ve been seeing it and everybody has been reading about it.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ukraine hails visa-free travel to European Union

June 13, 2017 (BBC News Europe) President Petro Poroshenko hailed the "fall of the paper curtain" at a gathering in the capital Kiev. He also opened a symbolic visa-free door to Europe, and met Slovak President Andrej Kiska, at the Uzhgorod border checkpoint. However, Ukrainians who want to work in the EU still need to obtain a working visa. Travellers departing from Kiev's international airport were treated to music and dance.
But in Russia, whose relations with Ukraine are tense, TV news downplayed the significance of the concession - and pushed the idea that the change would result in an influx of illegal labour migrants from Ukraine, and that the EU might eventually suspend the deal.
The visa-free scheme allows Ukrainians with a biometric passport to enter the Schengen area - including some non-EU areas such as Switzerland and Iceland, but not the UK or Ireland - without a visa for up to 90 days.

President Poroshenko opened a symbolic visa-free door to Europe and met Slovak President Andrej Kiska

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dutch parliament ratifies Ukraine-EU Association Agreement

June 3, 2017 (Interfax) The upper chamber of the Parliament of the Netherlands (Senate) has supported the ratification of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. The Dutch parliamentarians voted to ratify this document at a meeting on May 30.
"The Senate of the Netherlands has ratified the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. We are grateful to the Dutch parliamentarians for a wise and far-sighted decision that will benefit both countries and strengthen Europe," the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine said on its official Facebook page on Tuesday.

As reported, the Lower House of the Parliament of the Netherlands (House of Representatives) on February 23 officially confirmed the ratification of the Association Agreement with Ukraine. To complete the ratification process, the Agreement should still be ratified by the government of the Netherlands.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

BBC team on the front line of the Ukraine conflict

May 27, 2017 (BBC Europe) Ukraine says 10 of its soldiers have been killed and 27 wounded in the east of the country in the past week. Diplomatic progress towards a political solution remains slow, weeks before a deadline when Europe must decide whether or not to maintain sanctions against Russia. BBC correspondent Tom Burridge, along with producer Daryna Mayer and cameraman Alex Shpigunov, travelled with the Ukrainian military to one of the most volatile parts of the front line, on the edge of the town of Avdiivka.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ukraine marks Vyshyvanka Day on May 18 (Video)

May 18, 2017 (UNIAN) On May 18, Ukraine is marking Vyshyvanka Day, which is dedicated to the embroidered shirt – part of the Ukrainian national costume. The International Day of Vyshyvanka is now observed every year on the third Thursday in May. It is designed to popularize Ukrainian culture and traditions. The idea of celebrating this day originated in 2006 when several students and teachers from Ukraine's Chernivtsi National University put on embroidered shirts as a flash mob effort. And some years later, this tradition became international. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko greeted the Ukrainian nation on Vyshyvanka Day. "Let our national clothes inspire us to new victories! My congratulations to all on Vyshyvanka Day!" he wrote on Facebook.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Poroshenko insists on UN peacekeepers deployment in Donbas

May 15, 2017 (UNIAN) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko insists on the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces in occupied Donbas, according to an UNIAN correspondent. "I would very much like that my idea of introducing peacekeepers be supported. The militants were frightened when they saw that the idea of peacekeepers began to find support. Therefore, they organized an OSCE car blast, resulting in an American observer, a paramedic, died," Poroshenko said at a press conference in Kyiv on Sunday. 
As UNIAN reported, on April 23, the vehicle of the OSCE SMM patrol blew up on a mine near the village of Pryshyb, controlled by "LPR" militants. An unarmed American monitor was killed in a blast, while another two monitors – from Germany and the Czech Republic – were injured. Ukrainian President has repeatedly stressed the need to deploy an OSCE armed police mission in the east of Ukraine an order to ensure security. However, the formation of such a mission requires the consent of all 57 OSCE participating countries.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Senators urge Trump to meet with Ukraine leaders before Putin

May 8, 2017 ( Sen. John McCain and five other senators are urging President Trump to hold off on meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin until he has first met with Ukrainian leaders. The senators, who include Republican and Democratic members of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, wrote to the president after he and Putin reportedly discussed a first face-to-face meeting in July on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany. Russia has incurred international condemnation and stoked widespread concerns among the United States' European allies for fueling a conflict in eastern Ukraine against the government of President Petro Poroshenko.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is still formulating its approach to Russian aggression and long-time commitments such as the NATO alliance as questions continue to swirl over its relationship with Moscow, which the U.S. intelligence community says meddled in the presidential election last year. "Meeting with democratically elected representatives from Ukraine would send a strong signal that the United States continues to prioritize our relationship with longstanding allies, and will continue our commitments to support Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing aggression," they wrote in the May 4 letter. Discussions of the possible meeting between Trump and Putin were reported by the Kremlin, but not included in a readout of the phone call released by the White House.

McCain and fellow Republicans James Inhofe and Rob Portman, along with Democrats Bob Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen and Bob Casey, praised the president for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's decision to attend a NATO foreign ministers meeting in March, following reports he would not go. "Many of our allies in Europe are anxiously awaiting policy direction from your administration about our commitments to NATO and other institutions that preserve the international order that has served as the framework for international stability and security since the end of the Second World War," the senators wrote.