ISSUE 1 - JANUARY 3, 2019

Friends of Ukraine Network Sends Letter to Pompeo on Black/Azov  Seas
By U.S.-Ukraine Foundation 

In the aftermath of Russia's attack on and seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships and their crews in the Kerch strait area the National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) met on November 29th to discuss and formulate recommendations for the U.S. Administration and Congress regarding how best to respond to Russia's latest flagrant act of aggression against Ukraine. Amb. Alexander Vershbow (Atlantic Council), Amb. John Herbst (Atlantic Council), Amb. Temuri Yakobashvili (PASS), Michael Carpenter (Penn Biden Center), Glen Howard (Jamestown Foundation), Mykola Hryckowian (Center for U.S.-Ukrainian Relations), Donald Jensen (Center for European Policy Analysis), Ian Brzezinski (Atlantic Council), Nadia K. McConnell (U.S.-Ukraine Foundation) and Robert A. McConnell (U.S.-Ukraine Foundation) participated in the meeting.  The discussion included such issues as placing additional economic sanctions on Russia, providing more weapons and other military assistance to Ukraine, conducting classified briefings for lawmakers, adopting additional congressional legislation in support of Ukraine and developing a coordinated response with U.S. allies and partners, including NATO.

On December 1st, Robert A. McConnell, Vice Chairman of the FOUN National Security Task Force, transmitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on behalf of the group.  The text of the letter follows:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation's Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) this letter is written regarding next week's NATO Foreign Minister's meeting.  We respectfully urge that you do everything possible to see that the issue of Russia's aggression be at the top of the Ministerial 's agenda.  And, that you convene a side meeting with ministers from countries most concerned about the Black Sea and Russia's steadily increasing aggression in the region. 

All NATO members should have significant concern about the Russian aggression and we believe there are numerous actions NATO can and should take beyond simple statements of concern. However, in addition it would seem the countries most directly involved in the Black Sea region could and should jointly signal genuine support for Ukraine's free access to the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.  Whether it is naval visits to Odessa, accompanying Ukrainian naval movements in these waters and aerial exercises over the Black Sea clear actions need to be taken.  Time is of the essence to signal genuine support for Ukraine and against Russia's unwarranted and unjustified thwarting of free access to these waters.

FOUN Task Forces are working on specific recommendations that we would very much like to forward to you soon, but with your ministers' meeting eminent we wish to urge that you do as much as possible with your colleagues to prompt immediate and clearly recognizable resistance to Russia's actions.

By way of introduction the Friends of Ukraine Network is an informal working group that includes most of the former United States Ambassadors to Ukraine, military and other subject matter experts in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.  The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation essentially serves as the secretariat for the group.


Robert A. McConnell

Pictured: Participants of the November 29th National Security Task Force of the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) at the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.  The FOUN National Security Task Force and the FOUN Economy and Energy Task Force continued their deliberations in December regarding the most effective U.S. response to Russia's continuing aggression against Ukraine.  


Elections Cybersecurity Threats: How Vulnerable is Ukraine?
By Adrian Karmazyn

From left, Thomas Chanussot, Olha Aivazovska and Olena Propokopenko, the Kyiv participants of a transatlantic task force discussion on cybersecurity threats and Ukraine's upcoming elections. Credit: UCMC.

In an effort to examine the cybersecurity challenges that Ukraine faces as it prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections next year, the  Transatlantic Task Force on Elections and Civil Society in Ukraine held a videoconference roundtable on November 30th devoted to the topic, linking experts and government officials in Kyiv, Brussels and Washington.

Jonathan Katz ( German Marshall Fund) and Orest Deychakiwsky ( U.S.-Ukraine Foundation), co-chairs of the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) Democracy and Civil Society Task Force, opened the discussion with remarks about the seriousness of cybersecurity threats that Ukraine faces as part of Russia's hybrid war against Ukraine, and the recent attack on and seizure of Ukrainian ships and sailors by Russia in the Black Sea when they tried to transit through the Kerch Strait and enter the Sea of Azov.

As noted by Jonathan Katz, the transatlantic task force "is focused on the upcoming Ukrainian presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019 as well as Kyiv's ongoing reform efforts, including efforts to combat corruption and support for civil society. One of the primary goals of the task force ...is to strengthen transatlantic security and economic cooperation with Ukraine and to cooperatively address ongoing Russian aggression."

He added that "Russia's attack on Ukrainian naval vessels... was not only a serious military provocation that has been condemned by leaders internationally but also a renewed violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and international law.  It also impacts the security of the United States, the European Union and NATO, including those members states in the Black Sea concerned about increased Russian aggression close to their shores."

There is a great deal of support for Ukraine in Washington at this moment, said Jonathan Katz, and it's important that the temporary martial law declared by the Ukrainian government not negatively impact the elections: "What is the role of civil society in responding to Russian aggression and its role in ensuring that Ukraine's elections move forward unfettered in 2019? ...There is a delicate balance between ensuring security and ensuring democracy."

In his remarks at the German Marshall Fund venue, Orest Deychakiwsky said that It's important to recognize that martial law was approved by a legitimate, democratically elected parliament but stressed that "the Ukrainian government needs to respond to Russia's flagrant aggression in a way that preserves the rights and freedoms of its citizens" and he welcomed "assurances that constitutional rights will not be breached."

Orest Deychakiwsky also stated: "It is appropriate and even incumbent upon civil society to monitor martial law's impact on civil society.  And we can't forget that any real attacks on civil society would only play into Putin's hands... I hope that during the election campaign... candidates and the political class try and refrain from the politicization of national security issues to the extent possible... Russia and its cronies in Ukraine will try to exploit differences, including through malign cyber activity."  He emphasized that it is Russia "that poses the existential threat to Ukraine" and that a successful election will be one that not only reduces vulnerabilities to cyberattacks and disinformation but one that is also free, fair open and transparent.  "Given Russia's latest act aggression an election that meets international democratic standards is arguably now more important than ever," he said.

The moderator of the event in Kyiv was Olena Prokopenko, Head of International Relations for the  Reanimation Package of Reforms, which unites some 80 NGOs and is a co-founder of the transatlantic task force ...     CLICK to read more

The Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) Democracy and Civil Society Task Force is an initiative of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.  FOUN also has task forces focusing on national security and on the economy, energy and defense sector.

Adrian Karmazyn, the author of this article, serves as Vice Chair of the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) Democracy and Civil Society Task Force.

FOUN Economy and Energy Task Force Update

Nadia K. McConnell, USUF President, presents a gift of appreciation to Irene K. Joseph (center), the leading financial supporter of USUF'ss Biotechnology Initiative, with Amb. Roman Popadiuk, USUF's Board Chair and FOUN Economy and Energy Task Force Chair.   The Biotechnology Initiative is a prime example of USUF efforts to support economic development in Ukraine. 

The Economic and Energy Task Force is part of the Friends of Ukraine Network established by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) as an outgrowth of the Foundation's policy dialogue series. Its purpose is to examine and help facilitate greater business and investment development in Ukraine by providing recommendations, analyses and a public platform for discussion of Ukraine's economic needs and progress in establishing the necessary reforms and steps to increase the country's overall business climate and energy needs.

In addition, the Task Force will provide recommendations to U.S. policy makers to help facilitate U.S. and international assistance to Ukraine. The upcoming presidential election in Ukraine can be a crucial turning point for the country's reform efforts and support by the international community.

As a result, the Task Force is committed to working closely with U.S. and Ukrainian policy makers to ensure continued progress of the reform efforts. The Task Force is chaired by Ambassador Roman Popadiuk, who also serves as Chairman of the Foundation's Board of Directors. Chairing the economic work of the Task Force is Anders Aslund (Atlantic Council) while the energy sector is chaired by Edward Chow (Center for Strategic and International Studies).

A special subgroup of the Task Force is the Defense Group whose aim is to provide specific recommendations related to the privatization and facilitation of investment in Ukraine's defense sector in order to help Ukraine's economy and to also help strengthen the organization and functioning of Ukraine's military sector. Serving as Chairman of the group is David Rigsby, who is also a member of the Foundation's Board of Directors. Activities of the Defense Group fall under direction of the Task Force. 

How Russia's military intelligence agency became the covert muscle in Putin's duels with the West 

"Russia is our motherland,"11th-grader Nina Loguntsova said. "We will defend it."  (Mary Gelman for The Washington Post)
 Nina Loguntsova arrives at school early to stand at soldier-style attention, and she leaves late after extra classes that have included cryptography. Three different military uniforms hang in her closet. 

The 17-year-old student is part of an expanding military-education program at Moscow's public schools that aims to inculcate respect for security services and boost the math and computer knowledge of potential recruits. 

One of the program's partners is the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU - whose fingerprints, the West claims, are increasingly found on suspected Kremlin-ordered operations around the world ...  CLICK to read more

Ukraine Fears Breakout Offensive as Russia Breaks 'New Year's Truce'  
By Jamie Dettmer, VOA, Jan 1, 2019 

Ukrainian officials are warning that Russia may be about to escalate its conflict with Ukraine, including possibly launching a breakout offensive from Crimea.
And they accuse Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine's Donbas region of violating the latest cease-fire - dubbed a "New Year's Truce"- by attacking Ukrainian positions with a heavy-caliber weapon banned under the Minsk peace agreements.
An increasing number of Russian military convoys have been spotted moving toward the border between Crimea, the peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014, and Ukrainian-held territory, and there have been ominous fighter-jet redeployments to Crimean airfields, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.
"Russia continues to build up and prepare its military forces ... CLICK to read more

Russia plotting chemical attack in Donbas - Ukraine intel
Unian, Dec 29, 2018

Representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Vadym Skibitsky says Russia is plotting a terrorist act in the occupied Donbas with the use of toxic substances.

 "Ukraine's military intelligence is observing a number of intelligence indicators that clearly show Russia is plotting a terrorist act with the use of chemically hazardous toxic substances, which will further be covered by Russian propagandists as an employment of 'chemical weapons' against residents in the occupied Donbas by the Ukrainian troops. Russia's security forces are counting on a significant number of civilian casualties," he told a briefing on December 29.    CLICK to read more

An Interesting Commentary on Autocephaly of Ukrainian Orthodox Church 

Remarks by Dr. Frank Sysyn at "Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Question of Autocephaly: Religious and Political Dimensions of the Conflict between Constantinople and Moscow," Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, 11 October 2018.

Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Question of Autocephaly, Frank Sysyn
Ukrainian Orthodoxy and the Question of Autocephaly, Frank Sysyn

Crimea: Russia's Dark Secret
A harrowing look at killings and kidnappings undertaken by Russia to scare off Crimea's Muslim Tatars.
By Aljazeera, December 22, 2018  
Since March 2014, 30 Crimean Muslim Tatars have been imprisoned on charges of "extremism". Forty-four activists have been abducted, 19 of whom are still missing, while six have been found dead. The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, known as the FSB, is allegedly the main culprit behind these incidents. 

For decades, Crimea's Muslim Tatars have been pinpointed for discrimination by  Russia as the Tatars' opposition of Moscow's rule and ambitions have made them prime targets.

"I was kidnapped by people in military uniform without insignia. They put a sack over my head and took me away  ...   CLICK to read more


Ukraine's Top Comedian Is Running for President. And No, This Isn't a Bad Joke
By Mykola Vorobiov, Atlantic Council, January 2, 2019 

On New Year's Eve, Ukraine's top comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy  announcedthat he will run for president.  

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a Ukrainian actor and comedian, will run for president. Courtesy screen shot ze2019.com
The timing of the announcement was curious: Zelenskiy's short spot aired before President Petro Poroshenko's annual address on the second most popular TV channel "1+1," which belongs to Ihor Kolomoisky. The order caused many to speculate that the Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky is backing the forty-year-old comedian.

In 2015, Zelenskiy starred as a Ukrainian teacher who becomes president in the popular television series "Servant of the People." Zelenskiy plays  ... CLICK to read more


Sanctioned Russians Can Attend Davos After Pressure From Moscow
By Brian Blackstone in Zurich and Ann Simmons in Moscow, MarketScreener, Dec 16, 2018 

The World Economic Forum said Sunday that sanctioned Russian businessmen may attend January's Davos event, after Moscow threatened to boycott the annual gathering of the business and political elite.

The decision fends off a dispute that risked overshadowing the event that attracts a who's who from governments, finance ministries and businesses around the world. Last year's conference included President Trump and a large U.S. delegation. The summit is supposed to be a largely nonpolitical gathering at which topics related to the global economy are discussed.

Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, construction billionaire Viktor Vekselberg and banker Andrey Kostin ... CLICK to read more


CONTACT USUF at:  info@usukraine.org 


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January 6-10, 2019 in San Francisco, CA 



USUF will be representing Ukraine's Biotech sector in June 2019 ...
Join us in Philadelphia! 




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