Ukrainian Canadians express concern over recent developments in Ukraine

There are 1.2 million Canadians who trace their roots to Ukraine – the second largest Ukrainian community outside of Ukraine, with a 120 year distinguished history in Canada. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress represents the interests of this vibrant and active community that closely follows developments in their ancestral homeland, for which they wish nothing more than peace, prosperity, and the ability to pursue a full independent, democratic and dignified existence.

Our community is deeply disturbed by recent events in Ukraine, namely:

Black Sea fleet
The decision to extend Ukraine’s port lease to Russia’s Black Sea fleet by 25 years was highly inflammatory and divisive among the people of Ukraine. Overlooking the question of the constitutionality of this move, such a significant decision was made precipitously and rushed through Parliament without any consultation with Ukraine’s citizens or its neighbours.

Political commentators around the world have been critical of these actions. Among these was Canada’s highly respected national newspaper, the Globe and Mail (April 29, 2010), which criticized President Yanukovych for having sold Ukraine into Russia’s sphere of influence in exchange for subsidized natural gas which will largely be enjoyed by Ukraine’s oligarchs and industrialists.

Our community is deeply distraught by President Yanukovych’s recent remarks in Strasbourg which continue to aggravate tensions in Ukraine by diminishing the enormous suffering of the Ukrainian people in the Holodomor, by saying it was a consequence of Stalin’s totalitarian regime, rather than a genocide.

This position is contrary to the law of Ukraine, the vast body of recent academic research based on original Soviet archives in Ukraine, the position of the previous Ukrainian government, the current Government of Canada, the Ukrainian World Congress and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, instead putting it in accord with Russia’s interpretation.

The famine was largely engineered by the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin, and it was so extreme and purposeful in Ukraine that it can reasonably be called an act of ethnic genocide. In terms of its cost in human lives, the famine was the most costly of all genocidal operation of Stalin and the Communist Party. It targeted the destruction of the Ukrainian intelligentsia/Ukrainian national elites. What happened in Ukraine respects the definition of Genocide in the UN Convention.

The areas outside Ukraine where the famine took place were largely populated by Ukrainians. Dr. Raphael Lemkin, the father of the United Nations genocide convention, declared that the Holodomor was a genocide as it involved “the destruction, not of individual only, but of a culture and a nation.” The genocidal nature of the Holodomor is enshrined in Ukrainian law as it is in a great number of countries around the world, including Canada (which had unanimous support of all political parties and Members of Parliament).

Ukraine’s Parliament
Ukrainians around the world watched with apprehension as Ukraine’s Parliament (the Verkhovna Rada) spiraled into chaos last week. Our community is concerned by the physical brawls and complete lack of respect for Ukraine’s hard-fought democratic institutions. Ukraine’s image in the international arena, which we and millions of other Ukrainians around the world struggle desperately to promote positively, is in shambles.

Ukraine’s strategic assets
According to recent statements by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, Ukraine is considering the proposal put forth by Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to merge Russia’s Gasprom with Ukraine’s Naftohaz as well as the nuclear energy assets both countries. There are numerous recent examples of Russia leveraging energy to extort various concessions from Ukraine. Merging Ukraine’s state-owned energy companies which own its gas transportation and distribution system, its oil and gas exploration, production and deposits, as well as its nuclear companies with those of their Russian counterparts will make Ukraine entirely dependent on Russia. Such a move would be an unpardonable sell-out of Ukraine’s principal strategic assets and, indeed, its independence — something that no other nation in the world would countenance.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress calls upon the President and the Parliament of Ukraine to reassure Ukrainians and the world:

  1. Sovereignty of Ukraine – Reassure Ukrainians that Ukraine has not fallen into Russia’s sphere of influence by committing Ukraine on a path to remain outside Russia’s political and economic sphere of influence. To do so we request President Yanukovych:
    1. Does not sign the extension of the Russian Black Sea fleet lease; and
    2. Cease all discussions regarding the sale or merger of Ukraine’s state assets to Russia or any other party in the areas of energy, infrastructure, aviation or other strategic industries or assets of Ukraine.
    3. Modernize Ukraine’s gas transit system in a manner that leaves the ownership of this strategically important energy and economic asset in the hands of Ukraine, such as the current proposal from the European Union which includes financing.
  2. Holodomor – President Yanukovych’s recent public statements about the Holodomor are as harmful and divisive as saying that the Holocaust was not a genocide against the Jewish people because many Ukrainians were also murdered by the Nazis. We call upon President Yanukovych to issue a public statement and appear on Ukrainian television to reaffirm Ukraine’s position that the Holodomor was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
  3. Upholding the Constitution of Ukraine — The most important job of the President of Ukraine is to uphold the letter and the spirit of the Constitution of Ukraine. Recent regulatory change to the Verkhovna Rada coalition requirements and cancellation of local city and regional elections without setting an alternative date were unconstitutional and appear to have been made for political advantage. New municipal elections — New election dates should be set immediately.
  4. New Parliamentary elections in Ukraine – recent events have demonstrated that the current Verkhovna Rada is dysfunctional and no longer represents the will of the Ukrainian people. We call upon President Yanukovych to call a new election of Ukraine’s parliament at the earliest possible time.

Ukrainians Canadians remind President Yanukovych that he campaigned on the promise to bring stability and seek consensus in Ukraine. We sincerely hope that in recognition of the fractured nature of Ukrainian society, as the President of Ukraine he will take a consultative, cautious and even-handed approach to dealing with some of the difficult issues and choices that currently confront Ukraine.

As one of Canada’s largest and most influential ethnic communities we continue to promote the special partnership between Canada and Ukraine. We believe that this relationship will provide long term and mutual benefits to the economy and society of both Canada and Ukraine.

We pray for the people of Ukraine during these trying times and that its leadership will have the moral and civil fortitude to do what is in the best interest of all its people.

Paul Grod, National President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress

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