Welcome to Ukraine Calling, your weekly review of what’s been happening in Ukraine with a focus on a main story. I’m Marko Suprun for Hromadske Radio in Kyiv and here’s a look at some of the stories that were in the news this week.
FOCUS INTERVIEW: Behind the Scenes: How Canada Recognized Ukraine’s Independence 25 Years Ago. Exclusive Interview with Diplomat Nestor Gayowsky by Marta Dyczok.
CULTURE and MUSIC
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FOCUS INTERVIEW: Behind the Scenes: How Canada Recognized Ukraine’s Independence 25 Years Ago. Exclusive Interview with Diplomat Nestor Gayowsky by Marta Dyczok.
Dyczok: On December 1st, 1991 Ukrainians were given an opportunity to vote for their future for the first time in modern history. There was a referendum on independence and over 90% of the population voted “yes.” A day later, Canada recognized these referendum results, in fact, confirming Ukraine’s independence internationally. The Hon. Nestor Gayowsky was the Canadian diplomat in Kyiv who navigated this process. He kindly agreed to speak with Hromadske Radio, and give us a peek behind the scenes of what was going on, what led to this decision. Mr. Gayowsky, thank you very much for joining us.
Gayowsky: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Dyczok: Can you pull back the curtain and tell us what led to the decision that Canada made to recognize Ukraine’s independence back in 1991? We remember that the US opposed the Soviet Union falling apart. They wanted the USSR to stay together. They were not interested in Ukraine’s independence. They did not recognize it until Gorbachev resigned. Yet Canada took this step right after the referendum results.They were the ones who came in and said “yes, we recognize this.” What was happening behind the scenes? You were at the negotiations and were a key player in this.
Gayowsky: We have to go back in time a little bit remembering how we opened our office, our consulate in Kyiv. Prime-Minister Brian Mulroney was working hard on the East-West relationship, particularly with German Chancellor Schroeder. In fact, Schroeder mentions Mulroney by name in one of his books, saying how Mulroney made a tremendous contribution to East-West relations, particularly with respect to the Soviet Union, Europe and the west situation. Mulroney was eminently political. He understood the aspirations of Canadians of Ukrainian origin wishing to see some sort of activity on behalf of the Republic of Ukraine. He responded to that over time. When he was visiting Moscow in 1989, he announced there that Canada is going to open a consulate (in Ukraine) and that was against, as you said, the current, because the Americans were trying very hard to support Gorbachev for various reasons. One, they were able to obtain many concessions favourable to themselves with respect to the Soviet Union, such as the armament race and human rights. Secondly, I think a very warm relationship had developed between the American politicians and Gorbachev. One politician trying to help another. So they were very focused on Ukraine and there was Mr. Mulroney…
Dyczok: the Canadian Prime-Minister…
Gayowsky: The Americans once upon a time had intended to go into Ukraine back in the 1980s, but Afghanistan intervened, so they withdrew an option to open a consulate in Ukraine. And here was Canada butting into the business. There was some resistance within the Canadian political establishment to the idea of the consulate. It worked out in 1991. After I got there…
Dyczok: Can you remind us when you arrived?
Gayowsky: I arrived in January 1991 to open an office. In that period from January to roughly March the Canadian budget was being developed. At one point very serious attention was given to the question whether we should open the consulate and keep the consulate open in Kyiv.
Dyczok: May I ask, what were the reasons for and against it?
Gayowsky: I think within the Department of External Affairs at that time we [Canada] were pretty much accepting the American line that we should support Gorbachev. He is doing a terrific job in the country. At least they thought he was doing a terrific job. Whereas various Soviet republics, as well as the population, were thinking otherwise. I think it was a big misreading of the situation. The External Affairs people sympathized with the American point of view. It was a budgetary crisis. The Department of External Affairs was hammered by some budget cuts. We were looking through ways of cutting expenses, and Kyiv came up on the chopping block. That was a situation then, but people in External Affairs also forgot that 1991 was also the 100thanniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada, and to open an office and then try to close an office was politically unacceptable. After a short tussle, I learned that indeed we were going to maintain the office.
Dyczok: Good thing that they did not close it, because an important things happened. You were there during the coup and during Ukraine’s declaration of independence.
Gayowsky: Canada was very lucky with the timing, because other countries were not there, particularly from Europe. The French were already trying to establish themselves in Kyiv. The Germans had already been there for a couple of years. There were not many Western countries represented there [in Ukraine] and only when the business of the coup and the independence of Ukraine began to come forward, other countries suddenly started to send their diplomats to establish representation in Kyiv. We were very lucky.
Dyczok: So you were one of the few Western diplomats to be posted in Ukraine at that historical moment. In between the declaration of independence in August 1991 and the referendum in December 1991 you must had been a key source of information for Ottawa, and other countries, since you were on the ground and you were watching things. Could you give ourlisteners a sense what were the discussions were during those months leading up to the referendum?
Gayowsky: It’s a little bit exaggeration here to how much influence or role I or any Western diplomat played at that time, because you have to remember that it is the Embassies that provide political judgements that are sent back to the home countries. Certainly Consulates and the officers there can provide information to the Embassies. This was particularly the situation for Americans. The American Consul-General arrived there [in Kyiv] in February 1991, about a month after I did.
Dyczok: Was that John Stepanchuk?
Gayowsky: No, It was John Gunderson. The situation there was interesting because I learned over time that if he was reporting on Ukrainian situation, he had to go up to Moscow and write his reports in Moscow. In Moscow they were very much against the view that Ukraine was really pushing that hard, and that independence was looming on the horizon. There was a difference between opinion of the American Consulate in Ukraine and the American Embassy in Moscow, which was presenting Bush’s line, “We have to keep Gorbachev in power.” That idea also led to the famous August 1991 “Chicken Kiev” speech by President Bush during which he said, “You’ve got to be careful about breaking up a big monolith like this. Think carefully about this.” The Americans were very hurt by what happened in Yugoslavia. They did not want to see the break-up of the Soviet Union leading to the same consequences. So there was some tension between the reports that probably John [Gunderson, US Consul-General in Kyiv] was sending and information that I was sending. Sending information from Kyiv to Canada for me was extremely difficult. We had the time distance 8-9 hours depending on the time of year. My day would be ending and Ottawa would just be coming online. I had no means of communication other than the telephone line, which, as you will remember very well, telephones didn’t work very well in Ukraine. If I had to make a long-distance call, I had to reserve a time and ask that a call be made at such and such a time, and the call had to proceed through Moscow. There were often large delays and the times that I had set were often ignored, so that sometimes I would be staying up in my apartment office, waiting for a phone call as long as 10 and 11 o’clock at night. So communication was difficult. Written communication was difficult because most consulates and embassies of Canada at the time had some direct communication with Ottawa through a particularly secure system. I had no such arrangement from Kyiv. I had to rely on the telephone system. Faxing was almost impossible. The reason was that there were very few fax machines at Ukraine at the time. The hotel had one. But to access it, we had to get permission. Permission had to be granted by a security staff member. I don’t know if that staff member was in the hotel or if they had to go to the local secret service office to get permission. Fax machines, you will remember, were printing presses and therefore controlled.
Dyczok: Fax machines were a communication devices controlled by the state. Thank you for all that rich detail. You’ve touched on two questions that I wanted to follow up. I remember that on the 2nd of December, right after the referendum results had come in, and the 90 % yes vote was in, there was a celebration organized by the Rukh, the democratic opposition at the time. I remember you rushing in late, and the band was asked to stop playing. You were given the microphone and made the announcement that Canada had recognized Ukraine’s referendum results for its independence. Now how did you manage to do that so quickly, given the communication challenges that you faced and that you liaised with Moscow and Ottawa? Could you describe that day between the referendum results and announcing them?
Gayowsky: Certainly, to describe what happenedwas quite interesting. I think it was September. Barbara McDougal, our Minister of External Affairs, soon after the August  coup visited Ukraine, to set the record straight as to what Canada was hoping and expecting from the new Ukrainian leadership. While she was there, she brought with her a satellite phone setup. That satellite phone setup was sort of brought in illegally, because we never sought permission from either the Soviet or Ukrainian establishment to operate a private telephone line out of Kyiv. Anyway, Barbara McDougal left that telephone system with me and it was put into the third room of my hotel apartment, which was also serving as my administrative office area. We had this telephone ready to go on the 1st of December. December the 1st came, we had an observer group from Canada. You may remember that parliamentarians and some people from the Prime Minister’s office came to take a look at the vote and to see how the election was conducted. They reported back to Ottawa at the same time using the satellite phone explaining that everything had gone very nicely and properly in the best kind of voting standards available. By that time we had a pretty good idea that if the vote was large enough, Canada would be prepared to recognize Ukraine as an independent nation. So I received a phone call on that illegal satellite phone in the evening and it worked like this. The message came over the phone to me. I repeated the words to Anne Collins who was down from the Moscow Embassy. She took the words down, and once I had received the entire message, she went down to our other office and typed out the statement on velum paper, so that we could then present it to the new president of Ukraine. I was ordered to take that document to the new President of Ukraine. So I picked up the phone and called the Ukrainian Foreign Minister,AnatoliyZlenko, with whom I had very good relations. I had his private office number and I got him and I said, “Look, I received this document, which I think you’ll be very interested in, and I’ve got to present it to President Kravchuk.” He understood what was involved, so we got together a party. Patrick Boy, who was a Member of Parliament at that time, one who was helping the Minister of Foreign Affairs Joe Clark, was part of the party as well as a representative from the Office of the Prime Minister. We drove out to president Kravchuk’s dacha, passing through several checkpoints, and we delivered the message there and then. And that is how we worked on this phone. Another story about the phone that I think is amusing. Barbara McDougal had left the phone in September, sometime in late November Foreign Minister Zlenko called me up and said, “I’ve got to get an urgent message to Czechoslovakia. Can I use your phone?” I had never told anyone that the phone was there, but I’m sure that hotel staff had reported it, so I said, “Sure, come on ahead.” So he came in, made his phone call, thanked me very much, and that was it. Things were very loosey-goosey at the time as you remember, and it was a charming time indeed. And that’s how that event transpired. And that stopping the band,I think it was at the Lybid hotel at the time…
Dyczok: Yes, you actually anticipated my next question. I was wondering about the sequence of events, because you came in and made the announcement to the then opposition Rukh. I was wondering who was the first to hear the news, and you’ve already answered that. How much contact did you have with Kravchuk, who was Speaker of Parliament and who then became president on December 1st How much contact did you have with both sides? Because there was the majority and the opposition and you as the diplomat watching and reporting, presumably, you had to have discussions….
Gayowsky: If I did any reporting, it came later, I think, after the independence. Up to that period it was very difficult. I was a one-man show. I hired some staff. I had actually been looking forward to a very easy summer. By August the office was working very comfortably and I was thinking, “This is a breeze. I’ve got nothing to do.” I can hardly communicate. I knew what was going on. I was talking to the opposition. We rarely talked to the communist side there. For some reason, they didn’t want to contact us, the foreign,Western diplomats, and we didn’t go after them very much.
Dyczok: But you did have contact with Leonid Kravchuk, who was a Speaker in Parliament?
Gayowsky: Yes I did. I had a fair amount of contact with him and his staff. Particularly his staff because after all he was extremely busy. He had just been promoted very quickly from Propaganda Chief of the Communist Party. He became the Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, which was a very powerful position in Soviet times. And then, when the head of the Communist Party went to work for Mr. Gorbachev, effectively Kravchuk became the leader, the undeclared leader of the Communist Party, and of the country. Then, in a short period after the coup and the election in December the 1st, he became President. So this happened very quickly, in about a year, to a man who had been hidden in obscurity for a long time.
I’ll tell you another story, which will be in the memoir. [Mr. Gayowsky is writing his memoirs, this interview provides a preview.] This was at the time Kravchuk was going to Canada [in September 1991]. Well, while I was there, I developed very, very good relations with particularly people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. [Borys] Tarasiuk, for example, became a very good friend and a few others, and Zlenko as well. But anyway, I was always kidding them about the flag on their car because they had the Soviet Ukrainian flag on their cars, their official cars. I said “Listen, if you go to Canada and you have that flag, you’re going to cause a riot.” And I talked to them about that and I spoke about that to Mr.Kravchuk and I kept reminding his two assistants, who really handled the details of his trip. So they came up with that Act of the… not an Act… postanova…
Gayowsky:…kind of Declaration. Yes, kind of Decree, saying that for the purposes of travel abroad etc. etc., they would use the traditional blue and yellow flag.So I persuaded them, I said“listen, if you’re going to Canada, you better do that, because it’s very, very important.” So a few days later, after having discussed this again, my friends from President Kravchuk’s staff came to me with three pieces of paper, and it was the document that had been approved in Parliament to have the blue and yellow flag as representative of Ukraine. And it even had — the ink was still even wet on one of the documents Mr.Kravchuk had signed, that this was the way it was going to be, because he was the Chairman of Parliament. So they said to me: “Is this satisfactory?” And I said: “Absolutely!” And that’s one of the things. I feel that I really reminded them that they had to go to Canada with a blue and yellow flag.
Dyczok: That’s such a wonderful story. I will look forward to reading your memoires, as I’m sure all the listeners of Hromadske Radio will.
In 1991 you were the right man in the right place at the right time to navigate this very complicated process and Canada’s recognition of Ukraine’s statehood. Because in 1990 when Lithuania had declared independence nobody recognized it, and therefore nothing changed. And in 1991 with Canada’s recognition of the independence, that was actually a key moment. You are now enjoying retirement on Canada’s West coast, and you’ve had time to look back. What is it that strikes you now, looking back at those events, as being something that was surprising, significant, that you only realized in retrospect?
Gayowsky: I think the degree to which, what I would call, Sovietism and communism, the 75 years of sort of Soviet power, how deeply it had penetrated Ukrainian society. It’s a way of thinking, a way of… it’s a very kind of corrupt approach to civic life. It’s a very deadly cunning one in many ways. I regard some of the politicians who emerged out of the Soviet system as being top-notch politicians, in the sense of being able to achieve their objectives. No-one has been able to control a former Soviet bureaucracy. It hasn’t happened in Russia and it certainly hasn’t happened in Ukraine. And one looks back at this and wonders why was it so difficult for Ukraine in 25 years to make changes, such as changes occurred in the next door neighbour Poland. When in 1991 they were roughly economically equal and now Poland has pulled far ahead of Ukraine in terms of economics and GDP and average salaries and so on. That’s really what has struck me is, what has prevented Ukraine from becoming a modern, democratic state. The aspirations are there. There’s much hope with the young, but the problems of extricating themselves from communism, from Sovietism, that kind of thinking, is very, very difficult. You see it everyday in the newspaper reports. People are being arrested for this or that corruption. A lot of people are being arrested, I read very rarely of anyone going to jail. What is it that is preventing the legal system from responding? Well we know, it appears the judicial system has been totally corrupted. And it wasn’t just Mr. Yanukovych, the deposed president, that corrupted it. It had already been well established by the Soviet system. So I think, looking back, that is the thing that troubles me most. Why is it proving so difficult to move that society to the democratic tradition, when there are some wonderful people there, the young people are coming up, pushing forward, but my goodness, how slow the progress is.
Dyczok: Well, you have a perspective of 25 years, you’ve seen various presidents leading Ukraine, let’s look forward. What do you see happening in Ukraine in the next 25 years? What would you like to see happening, and what do you think needs to happen?
Gayowsky: Well I think you do need a reform of the legal system, you need a reform of the judiciary, the business with the Procuracy, and now the Corruption Bureau. All these mechanisms either have to be improved or changed. There has to be a will and it has to be decisive because you just cannot afford to stand still. I think that Russia is sliding backwards and I think that Ukraine has the opportunity to move forward. In fact if Ukraine wants to regain Crimea, or even have some appeal for people living in Eastern Ukraine, in the Donbass, I think it has to show how much more beneficial a democratic way of life is to what is now being offered to those areas and to Russia.
Dyczok: You mentioned Crimea that’s been annexed by Russia, Eastern Ukraine that has entities calling themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic, Luhansk People’s Republic. They’ve had events that they’ve called referenda there, but they have not received international recognition. And that once again underlines the importance of international recognition of events that are referenda, that have to be democratic, properly observed, in order to be recognized. Hopefully you will be visiting Ukraine in the near future and…
Gayowsky: Next year!
Dyczok: And we’ll have another conversation, about what you see on the ground in Kyiv. Mr.Gayowsky, thank you very much for speaking to us.
Twenty five years ago, on December 1st, 1991, Ukrainians went to the polls and were asked a simple question: Do you support the Act of Independence for Ukraine?
The Verkhovna Rada or Parliament of Ukraine adopted an act of independence on August 24th, 1991. Back then, during the evening of August 18th, President of the Soviet Union, MikahilGorbachev was at his dacha, or summer retreat, on the Crimean peninsula. The USSR’s State Committee on State Emergencies surrounded him and proposed that he voluntarily resign. What is now known as the “Gang of Eight” tried to orchestrate a coup that failed and a provisional government collapsed by August 22nd. They were hard line communists and were opposed to Gorbachev’s new union treaty that was supposed to allocate more power to the Soviet Union’s constituent republics. Ukraine Calling listeners will remember that thanks to the efforts of a group of nationally conscious Ukrainians led by Narodny Rukh, the People’s Movement faction, VyacheslavChornovil, they were able to adopt the act of independence. However, that act of independence was conditional on a referendum that was then scheduled for December 1, 1991. Twenty two years later, on December 1, 2013, over a million people took to the streets to protest the Yanukovych regime’s return to Soviet style repression and in doing so, turned the student’s EuroMaidan protest into the Revolution of Dignity.
Chairman of Ukraine’s Parliament, AndriyParubiy spoke at the opening of the session and noted that the results of the referendum, in which over 90% of voters supported the act of independence. According to Ukrinform, he said it was “paradoxical, but a natural phenomenon-that Ukrainians supported independence, that they support freedom, freedom for which hundreds of thousands of the best sons and daughters of Ukraine died for in the struggle against occupation, in prison or in exile.” He also said that the referendum of December 1 was the funeral of the “Evil Empire”, the Soviet Union.
The International Monetary Fund was in Ukraine from November 3rd through to the 17th and Ukraine Calling listeners will remember that Ukraine received a four year 17 and a half billion dollar loan package back in March of 2015. That loan package is distributed to Ukraine in tranches something called the Extended Fund Facility. Ukraine has so far received almost half of the loan, around 7 and half billion US dollars. When the IMF delegation was in Kyiv, the Ukrainian government was hoping the IMF would release another round of funding, but the answer, according to the Atlantic Council was a resounding NO, “In plain language, this means that plenty remains to be done and that it will take quite some time. The IMF will not provide Ukraine with any more funding this year and it does not even give any hint when it may,” according to Anders Aslund.
The IMF mission was led by Ron van Rooden and issued a statement concluding three things: that the authorities in Ukraine need more time to implement policies to ensure medium-term fiscal sustainability; the economy is showing welcome signs of recovery but that strength and durability of that recovery depend on the implementation of reforms to support the transition to a full-fledged market economy. The statement apparently is one of the toughest made because it focuses on governance, which is a euphemism for rooting out corruption. We’ll include a link to the IMF’s statement on our web site.
President Petro Poroshenko held a meeting with Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Poroshenko expressed his gratitude for the bank’s leading role in gaining international support to overcome the effects of the Chornobyl nuclear power plant explosion back in 1986. Earlier this week, Reactor Number 4 at Chornobyl was enclosed by a new shelter to prevent radiation leaks. The structure is air tight and is the largest land-based movable object every constructed at 162 meters or 531 feet long and 108 meters high and cost 1.5 billion Euros according to the Guardian. Remote controlled cranes will work inside this new structure to dismantle the sarcophagus that was built back in 1986 to contain the tons of uranium but has been unstable and was expected to collapse. Both President Poroshenko and EBRD President Chakrabarti were present at the reactor site as the new sarcophagus officially covered the reactor. Poroshenko noted that the EBRD remains the largest financial investor in Ukraine for energy, transportation, and financial projects.
Ukraine’s 2017 budget allocated 3.2 billion hryvnias to provide monthly targeted assistance for IDPs, internally displaced persons, to help cover the costs of living in new places. The actual amount of assistance that a person gets varies from 442 hryvnias for able bodied and 884 hryvnias for people with disabilities or have lost their ability to work. According to the Ministry of Social Policy, as of November 14, there were 1,664 ,890 people registered as internally displaced from Crimea and the Donbas. 1,045 ,634 applied for assistance and 962,779 qualified to receive the assistance. From the beginning of 2016, Ukraine has spent roughly 2.6 billion hryvnias on this assistance program.
Ukraine’s government also adopted a series of resolutions regarding changes in healthcare. Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said at the meeting of the cabinet that healthcare reform is one of the most unpopular, but one of the most important. The government’s program is supposed to bring about a National Health Insurer and budget funds that were formally allocated according to a Soviet model that distributed costs for example according to the number of beds in a hospital, whether or not those hospital beds had patients in them. During an interview on Ukraine’s Channel 5, Deputy Minister of Health, Paul Kovtonyuk said that in Europe, Ukraine has the second largest number of hospital beds, yet the people are not more healthy because of it and a large number of hospitalsare simply ineffective and a drain on limited resources. The government’s system represents a change, because money will now follow a patient and afford them a level of independence they earlier did not have. Patients were forced to go to see a doctor based on their geography or enter the free market and pay heavy out of pocket costs. With the government’s new system, a patient can choose their doctor of their choice. Healthcare employees will also see a 30% increase in their salaries and the government plans to increase the amount allocated to purchase medicines to about 2 billion hryvnias. The new National Health Service is supposed to be rolled out over 2017.
Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, NAK NaftohazUkrainy is celebrating its freedom from Russian natural gas, according to Forbes. A year ago, the natural gas giant stopped importing natural gas from Russia. Naftohaz wrote on their website that this is a major milestone in Ukraine’s independence, because “just three years ago gas was a major symbol of Ukraine’s political and economic dependence on its northern neighbor. This dependence, being maintained through manipulating volumes of supply and prices for Russian gas, forced Ukraine into political and economic concessions.” Naftohaz asserts that “the attempts of the Russian leadership to use gas for political pressure on Ukraine are not efficient anymore.” This gas independence was the result of coordinated work by the Presidential Administration, the Cabinet, the Parliament, western partners and international financial institutions.
The Russian Federation Ministry of Defense issued a threat to Ukraine this week that will take Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine to a new level. Ukraine Calling listeners will remember that we mentioned Ukraine will be testing a new missile defense system. Radio Liberty reports that Ukraine has already started two days of missile tests in the Black Sea and in response, the Russian Ministry of Defense but their occupation forces in the Crimean peninsula on high alert. A spokesperson for the Russian MOD said that Ukraine was trying to escalate the conflict. The missile tests are supposed to run on December 1st and 2nd. Oleksandr Turchnynov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council asked the Russians to stop panicking about Ukraine’s missile tests. According to UNIAN, Turchynov said that the tests are being held in accordance with international norms and obligations and moreover, are being held conducted in Ukraine’s sovereign airspace.
At a ceremony honoring the Kulchitsky Battalion of the National Guard, President Poroshenko said that Ukraine will “continue with its training exercises, including those missile defense systems testing because over the past 23 years, the surface to air defense system of Ukraine was ruined. And our responsibility today is to build an air defense system to protect Kyiv and all of Ukraine. And no one will stop us. We will act in the security interests of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state.”
Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, filed a criminal case against Member of Parliament Alexander Onyshchenko for “state treason.” The head of the investigation division of the SBU, Heorhiy Ostafiychuk, said that in the course of their investigation regarding possible financing of separatism, they uncovered facts that support their case against Onyshchenko for treason, namely, an SMS (simple messaging service) exchange that revealed he has a Russian passport and that he agreed to work with Russian handlers to destabilize Ukraine according to the SBU’s Twitter feed and the Ukrinform press agency.
Russian proxy forces continue to fire upon Ukrainian positions, every day. On December 1st they opened fire with 122 mm caliber weapons as well as 120 and 82 mm mortars in the towns of Shyrokine, Krasonohorivka, Mariyinka, in the direction of Mariupol along the entire contact line. Tanks were also used against Ukrainian positions in Shyrokine which is roughly 23 km from Mariupol. Grenade launchers were reported being shot at Ukrainian positions in Stanytsia Luhanska.The press center of the Antiterrorist Operation concludes that the Russian proxy forces are making a push toward Mariupol based upon the amount of shelling seen in that direction over the past week. Earlier in the week the towns of Toretsk and Horlivka and the surrounding villages had their water supply interrupted because the waterworks system that supplies water to the area was damaged due to shelling. Schools were closed as a result and the towns are also without heating. The ATO press center announced the area is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Ukrainian utility services have been at the ready to begin work on repairing the pipeline, but the Russian proxy forces refuse to institute a cease-fire to ensure their safety.
Meanwhile, Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation said in an interview for an Italian news site, Corriere Della Sera that “The assertion about the presence of Russian heavy weaponry in the south east of Ukraine is science fiction.” And speaking of fiction, on Monday, fugitive former president Victor Yanukovych gave testimony via Skype from his safe haven in the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don about the mass killings on February 18th to the 20th, that happened in Kyiv, just before he fled to Russia. He made the bold assertion that his convoy was shot at by Right Sector radicals the night he fled Kyiv, something that has not been corroborated by any news agency or investigation. Yanukovych claims to have forgotten almost everything else however, including several phone calls he made to Russian President Vladimir Putin and calls that were made to other Russian phone numbers according to Financial Times journalist Roman Olearchyk.
CULTURE and MUSIC
Art and Culture were large parts of the Euromaidan protests of 2013-2014. On the third anniversary of the beginning of the protests, many cultural events were held. The country’s premier art space, the grand Mystets’kyi Arsenal in central Kyiv, hosted a ceremony marking at which the President announced the creation of a Museum of Revolution and Dignity would be constructed on the site where the ‘Heaven’s Company’ Euromaidan activists were killed by snipers in the last day of the protests.
Ukraine’s Institute of National Memory, which has been a driving force behind the project, had a few new projects of its own. Director Volodymyr Viatrovych and his colleagues presented a new book. It’s called, Maidan. First Person. Art on the Barricades. [Maidan vid Pershoi Osoby. Mystetstvo na Barykadakh], and is based on interviews collected with people who participated in the protests. Edited by Tetiana Kovtunovych and Tetiana Pryvalko, it’s the second in a series of publications based on the institute’s oral history project. Inside are memories of famous and ordinary people. Well known writer Andrey Kurkov (author of The Penguin Novels), the bard Taras Kompanichenko, two well-known figures from Ukraine’s folk-rock genre: Oleksandr Yarmola and Dmytro Kushnir, leader and the drummer of the band Haidamaky. There are also voices of new artists who emerged during the protests. The book can be freely downloaded, we’ll post a link on our website.
Many films were produced during and about the Revolution. Some were by established media companies like Studio 1+1, others by small groups of artists who came together to film, document, and share. A list of some of the better ones include, “The Winter that Changed Us,” co-produced by 1+1 and Babylon 13, documentary film, “The Maidan Massacre,” by US director John Beck Hoffman, and “Women’s Faces of Revolution.”
A very different Ukrainian film, “My Grandmother Fanny Kaplan,” won the Best Foreign Film Award at the London Crystal Palace International Film Festival in London this week. It’s about a little-known, real life love story between Vladimir Lenin’s brother Dmitry, and a terrorist Fanny Kaplan. The film was screened at this year’s Odesa Film Festival and the original sound track is by Eurovision winner Jamala. You can see the trailer on our website.
Holy Ukrainianization Batman! Finally, the news I’ve been waiting for my entire life! Ukrainian publisher Ridna Mova just announced that they won the rights to publish DC Comics in Ukrainian. They’ll be working together with fellow geeks and nerds that organize the annual Kyiv Comic Con and they expect the first issues to appear in the Spring of 2017. They announced their search for Comic Book Fans to help with the translation, so I’m not sure I can guarantee I’ll be around next year. Hopefully, Marvel will jump on the bandwagon soon.
A song called “Brother to Brother,” became the informal anthem of the Maidan protests. It was written during well before the protests began, but on 1 December 2013 when Kozak System and Shablia got together to rehearse the piece, many others joined them.
We’ll keep watching these and other stories as they develop. If you have any questions or would like to know more, write to us at [email protected]. I’m Marko Suprun in Kyiv. Thanks for listening.
Headlines by Marko Suprun& Marta Dyczok. Interview by Marta Dyczok, transcribed by LarysaIarovenko, Alexander Konovalov, and Oksana Smerechuk. Culture and Music, Looking Forward by Marko Suprun and Marta Dyczok, Sound engineers Andriy Izdryk,Anna Kyrychevska, and Timothy Glasgow. Special thanks to Richard Raycraft and CHRW student radio at Western University for providing their studio and technical support for recording the interview with Mr. Gayowsky.