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Ukraine, Poland and Baltic States under "Information War"
Attacks & Criticism from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
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Denounces resolution condemning both Nazism and Stalinism
Agence France Presse, Moscow, Russia, Monday, August 31, 2009
Luke Harding in Moscow, Guardian, London, UK, Sunday 30 August 2009 

By Steve Gutterman, Associated Press (AP), Moscow, Russia, Sun, Aug 30, 2009 

by Nikolai Dimlevich, Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow
Global Research, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Sun, August 30, 2009 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has set off an alarm. The
West dare not dismiss them as raving. We have to be concerned. 
Analysis & Commentary: By Askold S. Lozynskyj, New York, NY, Tue, Aug 18, 2009 
Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Washington, D.C., Monday, August 31, 2009                                                            
Lynn Berry, Associated Press, Moscow, Russia, Sunday, August 30, 2009

By Clifford J. Levy, The New York Times, New York, NY, Thu, Aug 27, 2009

Russia is caught between continents and haunted by its past. Richard Pipes on the
need to convince a nation to dial back its aggressive tendencies and join the West.
By Richard Pipes, The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Mon, August 24, 2009

Russia’s president writes his Ukrainian counterpart an insulting letter
Economist print edition, Kiev and Moscow, Thu, Aug 20, 2009

By Ron Popeski, Reuters, Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Aug 24, 2009
Analysis & Commentary: by Vladislav GULEVICH (Ukraine)
Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow, Russia, Sat, August 22, 2009

Interview with Orest Deychakiwsky, Policy Advisor, Helsinki Commission
By Myroslava Gongadze, Voice of America (VOA), Wash, D.C., Fri, Aug 21, 2009
Op-Ed: By John Marone, Columnist, Kyiv, Ukraine,
Eurasian Home website, Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By Andre de Nesnera, Voice of America (VOA) Wash, D.C., Wed, 26 Aug 2009

By Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters, Moscow, Russia, Thu, August 27, 2009


Window on Eurasia, By Paul Goble, Vienna, Thursday, August 27, 2009

In 2008 I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Ukraine
Opinion Journal, By Claire St. Amant, The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Fri, Aug 21, 2009

Poland, Ukraine and Baltic States under an "Information War" from Russia
Analysis & Commentary: By Halya Coynash, Kharkiv Human Right Protection Group (KHRPG)
Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, August 31, 2009

Deep divisions over who was to blame for Second World War cast shadow over 70th anniversary meeting
By Shaun Walker in Moscow, The Independent, London, UK, Tue, 1 Sep 2009

By Matthew Day in Warsaw, Scotsman, Edinburgh, Scotland, Tue, Sep 1, 2009
Denounces resolution condemning both Nazism and Stalinism
Agence France Presse, Moscow, Russia, Monday, August 31, 2009

MOSCOW: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday criticised Ukraine and the Baltic states for glorifying “Nazi accomplices”, speaking ahead of the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II.

“We are seeing some astounding trends,” Medvedev said in an interview with the Rossia state television channel. “Governments in the Baltic states and even Ukraine are now essentially pronouncing former Nazi accomplices to be their national heroes who fought for the liberation of their nations. “Of course, everyone knows what really happened, but everyone looks down in shame, so as to avoid souring relations.”

Russia has repeatedly criticised former Soviet republics Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for seeking to rehabilitate anti-Communist groups that in some cases collaborated with the Nazis.

Resolution: Medvedev also lashed out at a resolution passed in July by the parliamentary assembly of the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) which condemned both Nazism and Stalinism.

Medvedev said the resolution had pronounced Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union “to be equally responsible for World War II” and said: “Now this, quite frankly, is a flat-out lie.”
He appeared to be referring to the resolution’s assertion that both regimes brought about genocide and war crimes, and its call to establish a Europe-wide memorial day on August 23, the anniversary of a notorious Nazi-Soviet pact.

Berlin and Moscow signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in 1939, paving the way for a joint invasion of Poland days later and Moscow’s seizure of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which remained Soviet republics until 1991. Despite the pact, the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941 and lost tens of millions of people in the conflict.

Present-day Russia regards the Soviet role in World War II as heroic and bristles at attempts to equate the totalitarian systems of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the Nazi German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, widely regarded as the start of World War II. Soviet troops invaded and occupied eastern parts of Poland less than three weeks later.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Luke Harding in Moscow, Guardian, London, UK, Sunday 30 August 2009 
It is a debate that has raged in European capitals ahead of the 70th anniversary on Tuesday of the beginning of the second world war on 1 September 1939. Who, apart from Hitler, was actually responsible for starting it?

This summer the Baltic states have blamed Hitler and Stalin equally. Russia, meanwhile, is fingering Poland. Ultimately, however, the row which threatens to eclipse a gathering on Tuesday of European leaders in Gdansk is not about history or the past. It is all about the present, specifically Russia's claim of having "privileged interests" in its post-Soviet neighbours.
Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, made his own explosive contribution to the debate, saying it was a "flat-out lie" to suggest that Stalin bore any responsibility for starting the second world war, which he described as "the 20th century's greatest catastrophe". According to Medvedev, it was Stalin who in fact "ultimately saved Europe".
In an interview with Rossiya TV earlier today, Medvedev let rip at the EU Baltic states and Ukraine, accusing them of rewriting history, glorifying fascism, and obscuring the Soviet Union's unique leading role in the liberation of Europe. He also blasted the EU and its Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), which, in July, passed a resolution equating Stalinism with Nazism.
"The OSCE parliamentary assembly just recently grouped together Germany and the Soviet Union, pronouncing them to be equally responsible for world war two," Medvedev said. "Now that, quite frankly, is a flat-out lie."
Medvedev recognised that there could be "different attitudes" toward the Soviet Union. But he alleged that there could be no debate at all over "who started the war, which country killed people, and which  country saved people, millions of people, and which country, ultimately, saved Europe".
He accused governments in the Baltic states and Ukraine of "pronouncing former Nazi accomplices to be their national heroes". Western Europeans were allowing eastern Europeans to get away with this outrageous revisionism, he suggested, because they were fearful of souring relations.

The pronouncements from Russia's president came as the leaders of Russia, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania prepared to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war in the Polish city of Gdansk. Russia is sending Vladimir Putin, Russia's hawkish prime minister, whose presence near the place where Hitler began his Polish invasion, shelling a military depot, is unlikely to dispel the present rancour.
Old tensions are resurfacing amid frantic attempts by Moscow to defend the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, signed by Germany and the Soviet Union's foreign ministers 70 years ago last week. The deal saw Hitler and Stalin carve up Europe, with Moscow subsequently annexing Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, two-thirds of Poland and much of Romania.
The Kremlin now argues that Stalin had no choice but to forge the pact with Hitler in August 1939. It says Britain and France made war inevitable by signing the Munich agreement. And it puts the boot firmly into Poland; the Kremlin says the country was a willing Nazi ally and accomplice to Hitler's partition of Czechoslovakia the previous year.
Historians are unimpressed. "This is a very stupid argument," Vladimir Ryzhkov, a historian and former Russian opposition MP said. "You are saying that Poland was bad for allowing the division of Czechoslovakia, but that Stalin was good when he agreed to divide eastern Europe with Hitler."
He added: "The Kremlin wants to create a new identity for the Russian nation. It advocates the Stalin regime, and promotes the idea that Stalin's actions were right and necessary at all times, including when Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact."

According to Ryzhkov, Russia's contemporary leadership is seeking to rehabilitate Stalin in order to justify its own "authoritarian" model. He described Hitler as the "creator" of the second world war, who bore responsibility for it, but said that the Soviet Union, the US, Britain, France, and the Baltic republics also had to shoulder blame for the conflict.

So far, there are few signs that the dispute will fade. Russia has promised to reveal more documents about Poland on Tuesday from the secret archives of the SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service. They follow the declassification of other top-secret surveillance documents, used by Moscow last week to defend Stalin's occupation of eastern Europe.
In May, Medvedev announced that he was setting up a new body to counter what he called the "falsification of history". The commission, dominated by members of Russia's FSB intelligence service rather than professional historians, would ensure that history teaching stressed Russia's heroic sacrifice during the war, Medvedev said, and it would combat foreign "revisionists", he said.

Russia's contention that it is entitled to a modern sphere of influence on the fringes of Europe has caused consternation in the EU and elsewhere. But, speaking historically, it is a view Stalin would undoubtedly have shared.
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By Steve Gutterman, Associated Press (AP), Moscow, Russia, Sun, Aug 30, 2009 
MOSCOW — Russia's president defended Moscow's role in World War II before the 70th anniversary of its outbreak, saying in an interview broadcast Sunday that anyone who lays equal blame on the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany is telling a "cynical lie."

Dmitry Medvedev's remarks were the latest salvo in Russia's bitter dispute with its neighbors over the war and its aftermath. The Kremlin has launched a campaign for universal acceptance of its portrayal of the Soviet Union as Europe's liberator.
In Eastern Europe, however, gratitude for the Nazi defeat is diluted by bitterness over the decades of postwar Soviet dominance.
Medvedev suggested in the interview with state-run Rossiya television that nobody can question "who started the war, who killed people and who saved millions of lives — who, in the final analysis, saved Europe." "You cannot label someone who defended himself an aggressor," Medvedev said.
Tuesday marks 70 years since the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, shortly after Josef Stalin's Soviet Union reached a nonaggression pact with
Germany that included a secret protocol dividing eastern Europe into spheres of influence.

Weeks after the German invasion, the Soviet army entered Poland from the east. After claiming its part of Poland, the Soviet Union then annexed the Baltic states and parts of Finland and Romania.
Germany is widely considered the chief culprit in the war, but many Western historians believe Hitler was encouraged to invade by the treaty with Moscow, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The Kremlin recently has mounted a defense against suggestions that the Soviet Union shares responsibility for the outbreak of the war.
Russians contend that the Soviet leadership saw a deal with Nazi Germany as the only alternative after failing to reach a military agreement with Britain and France, and that the pact bought time to prepare for war.

Medvedev lashed out at the parliamentary assembly of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe over a July resolution equating the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, saying: "Excuse me, but this is a cynical lie."
In the broadcast interview, Medvedev accused Western nations of turning a blind eye to what he said is the practice of Ukraine and the Baltic ex-Soviet republics of treating "former Nazi disciples" as "national heroes."
He suggested there was greater agreement between Moscow and the West about the moral aspects of World War II during the Cold War than there is now.
Russian leaders accuse Western countries of rewriting history and understating the staggering sacrifices of the Soviet Union, which lost an estimated 27 million people in the war. In May, Medvedev created a commission to fight what he said were growing efforts to hurt Russia by falsifying history.
Kremlin critics have accused Russia of doing the falsifying, saying its leadership glosses over the Soviet government's conduct at home and abroad.

In recent months, Poland has expressed dismay over a program on state-run Russian television and a research paper posted on the Russian Defense Ministry's Web site that seemed to lay significant blame on Poland for the outbreak of WWII.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

by Nikolai Dimlevich, Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow
Global Research, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Sun, August 30, 2009 

The 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the beginning of the WW II, its causes and culprits, and also a PACE resolution equating Nazism and Stalinism, are being widely discussed in the Russian media. Under the guidance of various western political circles operating in Russia, this discussion has turned into a real campaign involving some politicians, journalists and also the most vulnerable groups: women, young people, national and religious minorities.
The question is whether this campaign was plotted deliberately overseas? I believe it was. Remember who and why attempts to rewrite the history of the bloodiest war ever. Not to let Russia strengthen its position on the international scene, the West is using all means to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in the WW II.
The US seems to be playing the leading role here. The State Department provides unspoken support to the states which governments are pursuing Russia for “the crimes of the totalitarian Communist regime”. These sentiments are especially strong in the countries formerly comprising the Warsaw Pact and in the post-Soviet area, first of all in Georgia and Ukraine.
Poland and Baltic states seem to be taking the most active part in this 'conspiracy'. The non-acceptance of geopolitical results of the war is the core of ideology of the Polish right-wing factions (the ruling Civil Platform as well as the opposition Right and Justice).
The Baltic authorities hope to use a theory of 'illegitimate post-war world order' to justify its claims to Russia. Thus, Lithuania plans to suggest the creation of a special court to investigate “the Soviet genocide” case, where Russia would be a respondent.
Apart from this, nationalists from the Union for Fatherland are also going to put the status of the Russian Kaliningrad region on the agenda at the European Parliament. Estonia hopes to present its claims for the territories in the Pskov and Leningrad regions of Russia.
'Occupational' approach to the newest history is getting more popular in post-Soviet states as well. The local authorities are blaming Russia for 'humiliating' minor nations and are posing themselves as 'victims of Russian imperialism'. Ukraine panders to it in a most active way. The official Kiev welcomes heroization of militants from the Ukrainian Insurgent army and other independence fighters (S. Bandera, R. Shukhevitch, e.t.c).
In their attempt to rewrite WW II history, the western governments address some research centers to have a detailed plan of how to hold scientific discussions on war memorials and burial places somehow related to the Soviet army, and also on how to organize neo-Nazi marches and offer privileges to former SS officers.
This policy results in the creation of the so-called 'museums of occupation' and 'national remembrance institutions'. These organizations enjoy stable financial support from the government and grants from abroad and thus have plenty of money to 'carry out investigation' into Russia's occupation of adjacent states and other 'war crimes'. The names of the researches speak for themselves.
'Museums of occupation' have been opened in the Baltic states (Museum of Genocide in Lithuania and Military Museum in Latvia) and in Georgia (Museum of Occupation) and in Kiev (Museum of Soviet Occupation, 2007).
The Institute of National Remembrance-Commission of the Prosecution of Crimes Against the Polish Nation was established in Poland in 1998 with a special bill and focuses on the investigation of crimes against the Polish citizens in the period from 1944 to 1990.
There is also a national remembrance institute in Slovakia, headed by I. Petransky, an active member of the neo-Nazi movement which took part in campaigns in memory of a Slovakian dictator and Hitler`s ally Jozef Tiso. The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes was founded in Romania in 1993. It deals with the collection and analysis of the information related with socialism in Romania.
The Institute for Information for the Crimes of Communism was established in the Czech Republic in 1995, its aim being to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the communist regime. In 2007 there was also found the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes which deals with the 'epoch of Communism' (1948-1989) and Nazi occupation of the Czech Republic.
The Commission of the Historians of Latvia was established in Latvia in 1998. Adviser to the Latvian President on History Issues Antonijs Zunda is among members of the commission. The main task of the Commission is to provide state officials with the information they need to be successful in their rhetoric about 'Two Occupations' (Soviet and German) in the period from 1940 to 1991.
There is also a Center for Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism of the Constitution Protection Bureau and a governmental commission for identifying the victims of 'totalitarian communist occupational regime of the Soviet Union', routes of deportation and their burial places.
In early 1990s in Lithuania there was founded the Genocide and Resistance Research Center, which later received the status of a department in the Cabinet of Ministers. The center provides legal assessment on the crimes committed by the communist regimes against Lithuanians.
But the biggest number of institutions dealing with the problem of occupation is in Estonia. They are: Estonian International Commission for Investigation of Crimes against Humanity, a center for studies of the Soviet period, a bureau for registration of the repressed, the Kistler-Ritso Foundation and also the State Commission for studying repressive policies of the occupational regimes.
This commission released the “White Book of Losses Estonia Suffered During the Occupations”. The edition was used to boost a large-scale anti-Russian campaign. In November 2007, a remembrance institute was established in Estonia as well. In May 2008 the Foundation for Investigating Crimes Committed by Communist regimes said its aim was to “condemn Communism as criminal ideology”.
The city of Lviv in western Ukraine was the first in the post-Soviet area to take up the baton from its neighbors in the Baltic states. A governmental commission for studying the history of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and rehabilitation of its members was established there.
Independent western experts also name some other organizations in Ukraine which have obvious anti-Russian tasks: the Institute of Ukraine Studies, the Institute of Ethno-National Research, the Institute of Philosophy. The staff of these institutions mainly deals with the Holodomor (1933) and heroization of such controversial figures like Shukhevich, Bandera, Konovalets and other members of various insurgent groups.
Following the initiative of the Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, on May 31 2006 there was established a national remembrance institution to promote the belief that Ukrainians were starved to death due to the Soviet politics and that members of the insurgent movements of 1920-50ss in Ukraine were national heroes.
Some countries of the Eastern Europe and the CIS, following the instructions from Washington and PACE, insist that 'both totalitarian regimes are equally responsible for unleashing the war'. Here I should quote Efraim Zurov, director of the Israeli branch of Simon Wiesenthal Center, who said that by equating crimes committed by Hitler to those of the Communists, the governments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have practically invalidated the former.
“The idea is the following: by talking about Communist genocide to distract public attention from the extermination of the Jews by the Baltic armies during the Nazi occupation... When the EU, US, Israel and all the Jews living worldwide failed to make the Baltic states take responsibility for the Holocaust, the Baltic governments launched their campaign of equating Nazism to Communism”, Zurov says. 1
A special commission under the auspices of the Russian President is expected to play a crucial role in consolidating efforts of different scientific and political organizations aimed at resisting the attempts to distort historical facts and damage Russia's national interests. The suffering endured by the Russian people during the WW II is the strongest thing that unites all people, as well as the Victory Day, despite their political preferences and financial well-being.
However, it does not mean that this commission will complete its work after the celebrations of the 65th anniversary of victory in 2010 are over. It should work systematically. Sadly, this is what we cannot see today.
To resist the US-led anti-Russian campaign, it would be the right thing to establish non-governmental organizations in Russia and in the countries formerly comprising the anti-Hitler coalition,and also in Germany, Israel, Italy, Spain, Japan, and use media outlets around the globe to let people know the truth about this tragic page in the history of the 20th century.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.
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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has set off an alarm. The
West dare not dismiss them as raving. We have to be concerned. 
Analysis & Commentary: By Askold S. Lozynskyj, New York, NY, Tue, Aug 18, 2009 
Action Ukraine Report (AUR), Washington, D.C., Monday, August 31, 2009                                                            
On August 6, 2009 President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev wrote to President of Ukraine Victor Yuschenko expressing indignation over Russia-Ukraine relations, resulting from President Yuschenko’s tenure as president. This communication read in part:

          Problems in bilateral cooperation have, of course, existed before. This was natural following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, when we had to  
          develop relations between two sovereign states. However, what we have witnessed during the years of your presidency cannot be interpreted as
          anything other than the Ukrainian party's departure from the principles of friendship and partnership with Russia, embodied in the Treaty of 1997…
          A negative public reaction was caused by Ukraine's anti-Russian stance in connection with the brutal attack on South Ossetia by Saakashvili's regime.
          A year after those tragic events, once again the question of why civilians and Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinval were killed with Ukrainian weapons
          has arisen. Those in Kiev (sic) who supplied the Georgian army with weapons and, by the way, do not intend to stop doing so, fully share with Tbilisi
          the responsibility for the committed crimes…Ignoring the views of Ukrainian citizens as well as Russia's well-known position, the political
          leadership of Ukraine stubbornly continues to pursue accession to NATO.
         And as a so-called argument you hint at a “Russian threat” to Ukrainian security, something which, as you are well aware, does not and cannot exist.
         Unfortunately, the logical continuation of this destructive reasoning is the incessant attempts to complicate the activities of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in
         violation of the fundamental agreements between our countries governing the parameters of its base in Ukraine…
          At the same time, it seems that Kiev (sic) has consistently sought to sever existing economic ties with Russia, primarily in the field of energy. These
          actions threaten the ability of our countries to reliably use what is, in fact, a unified gas transmission system that ensures the energy security of Russia,
          Ukraine and many European nations…
          Russian-Ukrainian relations have been further tested as a result of your administration's willingness to engage in historical revisionism, its heroization
          of Nazi collaborators, exaltation of the role played by radical nationalists, and imposition among the international community of a nationalistic
          interpretation of the mass famine of 1932-1933 in the USSR, calling it the “genocide of the Ukrainian people”…
          The ousting of the Russian language from public life, science, education, culture, media and judicial proceedings continues…
          the harmful practices of intervention by the government of Ukraine in the affairs of the Orthodox Church beg attention. The conditions that were
          created artificially on the eve and during a recent pastoral visit to Ukraine by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia could hardly be described as
          favourable. Against this background, it is particularly gratifying to see the genuine and broad support for the unity of Orthodoxy demonstrated by  
          Ukrainians who welcomed the Patriarch…
          I would like to inform you that in view of the anti-Russian position of the current Ukrainian authorities I have decided to postpone sending a new
          Russian ambassador to Ukraine. Specific dates will be determined later in light of the future development of Russian-Ukrainian relations…
          For Russia, from time immemorial Ukrainians have been and remain not just neighbours, but also a fraternal people for whom we will always cherish
          the very best feelings, with whom we share a common history, culture and religion, ties stemming from close economic cooperation, and strong    
          kinship and human relations…
          In Russia we hope that the new political leadership of Ukraine will be ready to build relations between our countries that correspond to the genuine
          aspirations of our peoples and help strengthen European security. [1]
Ukraine’s President Yuschenko replied firmly yet diplomatically. The latter was quite remarkable considering that in essence, the President of Russia had entered brazenly as a critic into Ukraine’s upcoming presidential foray [2]. 
As to the merits of his comments, Mr. Medvedev appears disingenuous. Point by point his accusations can be refuted with facts known to almost anyone who
is familiar with Russia and Ukraine, certainly Mr. Medvedev:
     [a] the Treaty of 1997 could have been terminated by President Yuschenko, instead Mr. Yuschenko permitted the treaty to renew automatically even after
          Russia’s invasion into Georgia [3];
     [b] Ukraine’s sale of arms to Georgia is  consistent entirely with international norms [4];
     [c] a sovereign state naturally determines its own foreign policy since that is one of the elements of sovereignty and forges security alliances such as
          NATO which it deems most beneficial;
     [d] Russia’s Black Sea fleet stationed in Sevastopil remains on Ukrainian territory until the expiration of its lease [5];  
     [e] the energy crisis between Russia and Ukraine which ultimately affected other European countries was precipitated and repeated every time by
          Russia’s cutoff or reduction as Russia was in control at all times [6];
     [f] Ukraine having condemned Nazism and fascism is coming to grips only now with its communist past and its relationship with Russia, which has
          dominated Ukraine over the last three hundred fifty years [7];
     [g] Ukraine is becoming aware that Communism equaled or even exceeded Nazism in terms of atrocity and number of victims due to longevity; Ukraine is
          only beginning to discover it’s history which had been purged or rewritten by Russia and the USSR[8]; 
     [h] the true heroes of Ukraine have been forgotten or besmirched largely by Russian and Soviet historiography and present day Ukraine is attempting to
          rehabilitate them with honors they long deserved [9];
     [i] the Russian language has flourished in Ukraine at the expense of the Ukrainian language and Ukraine funds some 4000 Russian language schools while
          Russia funds no Ukrainian language schools [10]; 
     [j] Ukraine clearly separates church from state, guarantees freedom of conscience to all and thus has remained fertile ground for all religions among them
          Orthodoxy under the auspices of the Moscow Patriarchate;
     [k] on the other hand neither Ukrainian Orthodoxy or Catholicism have not been permitted to develop in Russia [11].

On May 5, 2009 the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations held a briefing entitled “The Outcome and Lessons of World War II and the Present” at the UN headquarters in New York. The event was opened and presided over by Ilya Rogachev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN.  
In the course of his presentation and answering questions, Mr. Rogachev praised the Soviet Union and even Josef Stalin, and went out of his way to calumniate contemporary Ukraine and the Baltic states [12]. This presentation was not an aberration, rather another example of contemporary Russia flexing its historical muscles and attacking its neighbors, once within its sphere of influence.

Indeed Russia has a lengthy history of imperialism and thus Mr. Medvedev’s communication should not surprise. Furthermore, it should concern not only Ukraine, but all countries once within Russia’s sphere of influence and apparently very much within its purview today. Additionally, given the experiences of modern history and relations between the West and Moscow in the past, Mr. Medvedev’s assertions should alarm the West.
If the West is intent on defending democracy and protecting the world from the second largest nuclear arsenal controlled by what is becoming a rogue regime, then the West must be vigilant.
Aside from rhetoric, over the last few years Russia has:
     [a]  manifested a disregard for democracy within its borders [13],
     [b] displayed arrogance in the face of international opprobrium [14],
     [c] refused to investigate seriously murders within its borders [15] or
     [d] cooperate in solving killings involving Russia abroad [16],
     [e] directed aggression against its own ethnic minorities [17] and
     [f] violated the sovereignty of its neighbors. [18]
Taking a cue from Ilya Rogachev, let us consider the lessons of World War II, indeed. The war was precipitated by Berlin and Moscow via the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact concluded in Moscow on August 23, 1939, euphemistically referred to as the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact which, in essence, conveniently enabled each side to invade territory which each had long desired [19]. This collaborative effort from the Soviet side, in essence, made the USSR the single most significant Nazi collaborator in history.
The particulars for this conspiracy to perpetrate a crime appeared in the Secret Additional Protocol, not published at the time the Pact was announced, which carved up Eastern Europe with specificity[20] and, in retrospect, outlines what transpired subsequently.
A further document which should be considered in assessing contemporary Russia’s rhetoric and action in view of historical precedent, is the notorious Yalta Agreement concluded by the apparent victors of World War II in February 1945 - Winston S. Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and J. Stalin.
The Agreement addressed the imminent defeat of Germany, its occupation and control, reparations by Germany, the convening of a United Nations’ conference, terms of reference for micromanaging by the three parties’ foreign secretaries, some rhetoric on unity of action in peace as in war and most importantly the fate of “liberated” Europe, in particular Poland and Yugoslavia and the other countries.
The result was that Stalin assumed control over Eastern Europe with power to set up internal conditions, establish governments and oversee elections albeit with input from the US and the UK which subsequently proved minimal [21] and resulted in the “cold war.”
Following Yalta, Winston Churchill wrote how poor Neville Chamberlain had been duped by Hitler, but that he (Churchill) could trust Stalin. However, the sad realty was that even if appeasement was not in the minds of Churchill and Roosevelt, appeasement was the result. Soviet secret archives as well as the accounts of Soviet agents have determined that Winston Churchill came to Yalta in a disadvantageous position.
The Cambridge Five had provided sufficient information on British thinking well in advance. President Roosevelt was even more vulnerable since he was in failing health (he died two months later).
Furthermore, the US delegation to Yalta included one Alger Hiss, later proven to have been working for Soviet military intelligence within the US State Department since 1935. Additionally the venue was arranged so that there was no British or American intelligence to speak of.
Stalin knew what points Churchill and Roosevelt would negotiate and graciously conceded on irrelevant issues, i.e. allowing some democratic individuals into the puppet Polish provisional government since he could ensure their subsequent removal.[22] Churchill and Roosevelt proved to be Yalta’s “useful idiots.”
Contemporary Russian aggression is not limited to rhetoric. For this reason, Medvedev’s letter to Yuschenko should be viewed as a harbinger of further saber rattling and even active aggression.  Last year’s Russian invasion of Georgia sent a chill throughout the neighborhood which was felt in the West. The cease fire did little to alleviate the tension.  Russian troops remain very much in Georgia despite Russia’s agreement to vacate as part of a cease fire.[23]
Is the West prepared to respond to Russian aggression? To the contrary, some members of Congress have referred to the post-Soviet world situation as “an international disaster.” 
Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged that U.S. policy “be directed toward supporting Prime Minister Putin's dream of eventually restoring Russian hegemony over Eastern Europe. A strong Soviet Union provided a counterbalancing force to offset U.S. imperialism,” Schumer has contended. As a start, Schumer has insisted that all U.S. weapons and personnel be withdrawn from Europe:
          U.S. forces are inhibiting an organic resolution of intra-European relations...The Russians feel powerless and humiliated. The gains they won from
          defeating Hitler have been frittered away by weak leaders and American pressure. A withdrawal of our pressure would give Russia the confidence it
          needs to reassert itself in Eastern Europe—thereby, restoring the region to the status agreed upon at the historic Yalta Conference in 1945. [24]

On the other hand President Barack Obama gently rebuked Russia for its lack of respect for the sovereignty of its neighbors during his July visit there:

          State sovereignty must be the cornerstone of international order.  Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the
          right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies.  Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy.  That is why this principle
          must apply to all nations, including Ukraine. [25]
Vice President Joseph Biden went further to provide assurances to Ukraine[26] and subsequently to Georgia, underlining US support for their sovereignty and NATO membership during his visit to both countries two weeks later:

          As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine. And we recognize no sphere of influence, or no
          ability of any other nation to veto the choices an independent nation makes as to with whom and under what conditions they will associate.  We also
          do not believe in zero-sum thinking.  We do not believe that a partnership with one nation must come at the expense of another.  It has not.  It does not,
          and it will not…We reject the notion of spheres of influence as 19th century ideas that have no place in the 21st century.  And we stand by the
          principle that sovereign states have a right to make their own decisions, to chart their own foreign policy, to choose their own alliances. President
          Obama, in his speech in Moscow two weeks ago, strongly affirmed this principle…We also re-affirmed the security assurances that the United States,
          Russia and the United Kingdom provided Ukraine in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum…Ukraine has also been a leader in what President Obama and I
          believe is our greatest security challenge -- the greatest security challenge that is facing the world -- and that is reducing the world’s arsenal of
          nuclear weapons, renewing the non-proliferation system, and securing vulnerable nuclear fissile material…The United States also supports Ukraine’s
          deepening ties to NATO and to the European Union….
Russia’s Interfax reported recently that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has introduced a bill in the Russian parliament that would allow the country's armed forces to intervene beyond Russia's borders. The bill would allow Russian troops to be used abroad "to rebuff or prevent an aggression against another state" or "protect Russian citizens abroad".
Mr Medvedev said the bill was linked to last year's war with Georgia over South Ossetia. Moscow said it was protecting Russian citizens in South Ossetia.[27] The bill will be debated by the Russian “Duma” in September before passage. However, given the standard of democracy in Russia and the composition of the “Duma”, there is little doubt about the outcome.
The question is not whether Russia will act on its rhetoric, rather how forcefully and expeditiously. What will be the reaction of the West? Senator Schumer and the like in Congress may not be Alger Hiss, but, “useful idiots” nonetheless. Are President Obama and Vice President Biden committed to democracy and freedom? What about our allies? Will principle prevail over historical appeasement?
Dmitry Medvedev may not be Josef Stalin, but he, certainly, has set off an alarm. His comments may be mendacious to the point of absurdity, annoying and intrusive, still Ukraine, its democratic neighbors and the West dare not dismiss them as raving. We have to be concerned. 
NOTE:  Askold S. Lozynskyj is past president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) and past president of the Ukrainian World Congress.  He is an attorney in New York City. 
[1] Official website of the President of the Russian Federation    
[2] Ukraine’s presidential election is scheduled for January 17, 2010
[3] Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Russia and Ukraine signed by President Boris Yeltsin and President Leonid Kuchma in 1997 automatically renewed by its terms for an additional 10 years on October 1, 2008.
[4] In his response President Yuschenko acknowledged the lawful sale of arms by Ukraine to Georgia, pointing out that Georgian arm sales are not precluded by any international sanctions or embargoes (UN, OSCE, EU or others) and that Russia’s attempt to have the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe do so, were denied.
[5] Twenty year lease for Russian fleet in Sevastopil, Crimea expires on May 28, 2017. Article 17 of the Constitution of Ukraine does not allow foreign military bases on Ukrainian territory.
[6] In January 2006 Russia cut off the flow of gas to Europe via Ukrainian pipelines citing a price dispute for supply and transit. Similarly Russia cut off or reduced service to Ukraine in March 2008 and January 2009 resulting in reductions in Europe. At all times Russia controls the flow to Ukraine.
[7] In 1654 the Ukrainian Cossack leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky signed an agreement with Russia assuring Ukrainian autonomy within the protection of the Russian czar. The Russians invaded, systematically took apart the Ukrainian Cossack army and annexed eastern Ukraine to the Russian Empire. In 1939 following Molotov-Ribbentrop the Soviets invaded Western Ukraine and annexed it to the USSR
[8] The demise of the USSR and the opening of archives have shed light on this matter by revealing the results of the previously suppressed 1937 census. According to the 1937 census, the number of Ukrainians within the USSR in 1937 was 26.4 million almost 5 million less that in 1926, the prior census, a decrease of 16%. The normal growth rate of non-Ukrainians in the USSR from 1926 to 1937 was at a 17% increase. Ukrainians should have numbered 36.5 million in 1937. The conclusion is that between 1926 and 1937, the Ukrainian population within the entire USSR declined by 10.1 million. In assessing the number of actual victims an allowance should be made for children never born to the victims. During that same period the Russian population in the USSR increased by 23%.
[9]President Yuschenko has honored heroes of Ukraine who struggled against the Russian Czarist empire and those who fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets during World War II.  No one honored has been mentioned, let alone made the object of the Nuremberg proceedings or any other war crime investigation.
[10] There are more than 2000 strictly Russian language schools and almost an additional 2000 bi-lingual Ukrainian and Russian schools all funded by the Ukrainian government. The Russian government funds no Ukrainian language schools.
[11]  There are 7500 churches in Ukraine belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate. There are no Ukrainian church structures in Russia.
[12] The conference was organized by the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations to celebrate the Soviet victory in World War II.
[13] During the Russian “Duma” elections in December 2007, the presidential party “United Russia” received 70 %, the Communists 13% and all other parties 17%. In the Presidential election of March 2008 Dmitry Medvedev, President Putin’s chosen successor received 70 %, the Communist Zyuganov 18% and Vladimir Zhirinovsky 9%. All others remotely democratic candidates garnered less than 3% combined.
[14] In response to OSCE criticism that Russia had precluded the OSCE from sending an appropriate number of international observers for Russia’s presidential election, at a press conference President Putin stated: “Do not teach us democracy. Teach your wives how to make cabbage soup.”
[15] Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist-critic of President Putin, shot in a Moscow elevator on October 7, 2006 and numerous others.
[16] Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who defected, who died in London allegedly as a result of poisoning by a Russian agent on November 23, 2006..
[17] The most flagrant case is Chechnya. Ingushetia and Tatarstan may be next.
[18] The most flagrant is Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008. Additionally, Russia has made informally through surrogates and continues to make claims to the Ukrainian Crimea peninsula. Previously, Russia made claim to the Ukrainian Tusla peninsula, but then withdrew.
[19] The Government of the German Reich and The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics desirous of strengthening the cause of peace between Germany and the U.S.S.R., and proceeding from the fundamental provisions of the Neutrality Agreement concluded in April, 1926 between Germany and the U.S.S.R., have reached the following Agreement: Article I. Both High Contracting Parties obligate themselves to desist from any act of violence, any aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other Powers. Article II. Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third Power. Article III. The Governments of the two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to exchange information on problems affecting their common interests. Article IV. Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties neither shall participate in any grouping of Powers whatsoever that is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party. Article V. Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions. Article VI. The present Treaty is concluded for a period of ten years, with the proviso that, in so far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not advance it one year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this Treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years. Article VII. The present treaty shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement shall enter into force as soon as it is possible.
[20] Article I. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party. Article II. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San. The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments. In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement. Article III. With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinteredness in these areas. Article IV. This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret. 
[21] Declaration on Liberated Europe .The Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the President of the United States of America have consulted with each other in the common interests of the peoples of their countries and those of liberated Europe. They jointly declare their mutual agreement to concert during the temporary period of instability in liberated Europe the policies of their three Governments in assisting the peoples liberated from the domination of Nazi Germany and the peoples of the former Axis satellite states of Europe to solve by democratic means their pressing political and economic problems.  The establishment of order in Europe and the rebuilding of national economic life must be achieved by processes which will enable the liberated peoples to destroy the last vestiges of Nazism and Fascism and to create democratic institutions of their own choice. This is a principle of the Atlantic Charter -- the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live -- the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who have been forcibly deprived of them by the aggressor Nations. To foster the conditions in which the liberated peoples may exercise these rights, the three Governments will jointly assist the people in any European liberated state or former Axis satellite state in Europe where in their judgment conditions require (a) to establish conditions of internal peace; (b) to carry out emergency measures for the relief of distressed peoples; (c) to form interim governmental authorities broadly representative of all democratic elements in the population and pledged to the earliest possible establishment through free elections of governments responsive to the will of the people; and (d) to facilitate where necessary the holding of such elections. The three Governments will consult the other United Nations and provisional authorities or other Governments in Europe when matters of direct interest to them are under consideration. When, in the opinion of the three Governments, conditions in any European liberated state or any former Axis satellite state in Europe make such action necessary, they will immediately consult together on the measures necessary to discharge the joint responsibilities set forth in this declaration. By this declaration we reaffirm our faith in the principles of the Atlantic Charter, our pledge in the declaration by the United Nations, and our determination to build in cooperation with other peace-loving Nations world order under law, dedicated to peace, security, freedom, and general well-being of all mankind. In issuing this declaration, the three powers express the hope that the Provisional Government of the French Republic may be associated with them in the procedure suggested. Poland A new situation has been created in Poland as a result of her complete liberation by the Red Army. This calls for the establishment of a Polish provisional government which can be more broadly based than was possible before the recent liberation of western Poland. The provisional government which is now functioning in Poland should therefore be reorganized on a broader democratic basis with the inclusion of democratic leaders from Poland itself and from Poles abroad. This new government should then be called the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity. M. Molotov, Mr. Harriman, and Sir A. Clark Kerr are authorized as a commission to consult in the first instance in Moscow with members of the present provisional government and with other Polish democratic leaders from within Poland and from abroad, with a view to the reorganization of the present government along the above lines. This Polish Provisional Government of National Unity shall be pledged to the holding of free and unfettered elections as soon as possible on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballot. In these elections all democratic anti-Nazi parties shall have the right to take part and to put forward candidates. When a Polish Provisional Government of National Unity has been properly formed in conformity with the above, the Government of the U.S.S.R., which now maintains diplomatic relations with the present provisional government of Poland, and the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the U.S.A. will establish diplomatic relations with the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, and will exchange ambassadors by whose reports the respective Governments will be kept informed about the situation in Poland. The three heads of government consider that the eastern frontier of Poland should follow the Curzon line with digressions from it in some regions of five to eight kilometers in favor of Poland. They recognized that Poland must receive substantial accessions of territory in the North and West. They feel that the opinion of the new Polish Provisional Government of National Unity should be sought in due course on the extent of these accessions and that the final delimitation of the western frontier of Poland should thereafter await the peace conference. Yugoslavia We have agreed to recommend to Marshal Tito and Dr. Subasic that the agreement between them should be put into effect immediately, and that a new government should be formed on the basis of that agreement. We also recommend that as soon as the new government has been formed it should declare that:  1. The anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation (Avnoj) should be extended to include members of the last Yugoslav Parliament (Skupschina) who have not compromised themselves by collaboration with the enemy, thus forming a body to be known as a temporary Parliament; and, 2. Legislative acts passed by the anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation will be subject to subsequent ratification by a constituent assembly.
[22] Andrew, Christopher and Mitrokhin, Vasili, “The Sword and the Shield, The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB”, Basic Books, 1999 
[23] The New York Times, April 2, 2009 “Russia Keeps Troops in Georgia, Defying Deal”: Nearly eight months after the war between Russia and Georgia, Russian troops continue to hold Georgian territory that the Kremlin agreed to vacate as part of a formal cease-fire, leaving a basic condition of that agreement unfulfilled...Observers and diplomats say Russia has also used attack helicopters and stationed tanks in areas where none existed before the war. The sustained Russian military presence on land captured last summer — evident during two recent days spent in the area by two reporters — provides a backdrop of lingering disagreement between the West and Russia at a crucial time: The Obama administration is pledging to recalibrate the relationship with Russia, restore cooperation in other areas and explore a new treaty on nuclear arms. It also underscores the strength of Russia’s military position in the southern Caucasus and its enduring confidence in undermining President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and standing up to the West, even as Mr. Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia have signaled an intention to improve relations. Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev met on Wednesday, and exchanged warm remarks and pledges to cooperate, raising questions in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, about whether the United States would push to have the cease-fire plan fully honored. Under the conditions of the cease-fire, the armed forces of all sides were to return to the positions they held before the war, which erupted Aug. 7. The agreement required a cessation of fighting, corridors for aid delivery and no use of force. It also granted Russia a loosely defined permission to take further security measures while waiting for international monitors. In the weeks after open hostilities ended, Russia did withdraw many armored and infantry units to prewar boundaries, including units posted along Georgia’s main highway and or near Georgia’s military bases. The withdrawal eventually allowed many displaced Georgian civilians to return to villages that had been behind the Russian positions. But even though European monitors have long been on the ground, Russia still holds large areas that had irrefutably been under Georgian control, and thousands of Georgians have not been allowed free access to homes far from the disputed territory where the war began. Several areas under Russian control are at odds with the terms of the cease-fire plan. The most obvious examples are in the Kodori Gorge and the agricultural valley outside the town of Akhalgori — two large parcels of land dotted with Georgian villages that were partly deserted over the winter. No Russian forces were in either place before last August. Russian armor remains in defensive positions on the road to Akhalgori, blocking access to the valley beyond. The checkpoint is jointly administered by Russia and South Ossetia, and the senior official present during a visit last week by two The New York Times journalists identified himself as a Russian Army major.Russia also holds a fortified position and checkpoint at Perevi, and an observation post near the village of Orkhosani that overlooks Georgia’s highway. Further, in recent months, Russia has conducted military patrols on territory it did not hold, landing helicopter-borne units just behind the boundary, according to the European Union Monitoring Mission, which was established after the war. The Russian military also conducts aviation patrols just inside the line with helicopter gunships, the monitoring mission said, and has built a military highway through the mountains linking the Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, with Akhalgori. The Russian government declined multiple requests to explain the composition and roles of its forces. Gilles Janvier, deputy head of the European monitoring mission, said in an interview that Russia had told diplomats that it had entered its own military agreement with the two breakaway regions in Georgia, which the Kremlin recognizes as independent states, and that these newer arrangements rendered the troop withdrawal component of the cease-fire plan obsolete. “They say there is now a new bilateral agreement between them and South Ossetian and Abkhaz forces that lets them station troops,” Mr. Janvier said. The posture has frustrated diplomats and the Georgian government alike. A senior American official said that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the subject in her meeting in early March with Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, to no apparent effect.
[24] Schumer, Charles, “Russia Can Be Part of the Answer on Iran”, The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2008 24 Moscow, July 7, 2009 at the New Economic School graduation in Gostiny Dvor. 
[25] Moscow, July 7, 2009 at the New Economic School graduation in Gostiny Dvor. 
[26] Kyiv, Ukraine, July 22, 2009 Ukraine House.
[27] Sochi, Russia, August 10, 2009, meeting with Russia’s largest political parties, reported by various news services.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Lynn Berry, Associated Press, Moscow, Russia, Sunday, August 30, 2009

MOSCOW - Seventy years ago Sunday, the Soviet Union signed a pact with Nazi Germany that gave dictator Josef Stalin a free hand to take over part of Poland and the Baltic states on the eve of World War II.

Most of the world now condemns the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, but Russia has mounted a new defense of the 1939 treaty as it seeks to restore some of its now-lost sphere of influence.
"This is all being rehabilitated because this is now a very lively issue for Russia," said military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer. "This is not about history at all."
The pact, formally a treaty of nonaggression, was signed Aug. 23, 1939, in Moscow by Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, the foreign ministers of the two countries.
In addition to the pledge of nonaggression, the treaty included secret protocols that divided Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.
On Sept. 1, Germany invaded Poland - thus igniting World War II - and within weeks the Red Army had marched in from the east. After claiming its part of Poland, the Soviet Union then annexed part of Finland, the Baltic states and the Romanian region that is now Moldova.
Molotov's grandson and namesake, Vyacheslav Nikonov, said his grandfather saw a deal with Nazi Germany as the only alternative after a failure to reach a military agreement with Britain and France.
The Soviet government was convinced that a Nazi attack on Poland was imminent and "we needed to know where the Germans were going to stop," Nikonov said. The pact also bought needed time for the country to prepare for war, he said.
He said his grandfather later criticized aspects of Stalin's leadership, including the purges, but he stood by the pact for the rest of his life.
"He said there were many, many mistakes done by the Soviet leadership, he regrets many lives," said Nikonov, who was 30 when his grandfather died in 1986 and knew him well. "Molotov never considered Molotov-Ribbentrop as something he would regret."

The Soviet Union officially denied the existence of the secret protocols for decades. They were only formally acknowledged and denounced in 1989.
But as the 70th anniversary of the treaty has approached, some Russian historians have stepped up to vociferously defend the Soviet Union's decision to expand its territory at the expense of its neighbors.
The Foreign Intelligence Service, once part of the KGB, published a book of declassified intelligence reports to make the case that the nonaggression treaty and its secret protocols were justified and essential to the victory over the Nazis.

Retired Maj. Gen. Lev Sotskov, who compiled the book, said the pact allowed the Soviet Union to "move its borders with Germany" to the West. This prevented the Baltic states of Lithuanian, Latvia and Estonia of becoming a staging ground for an attack, he told journalists.
Even so, when Nazi Germany did attack in June 1941, all the territory the Soviet Union had gained was lost in a matter of weeks. At the end of the war, however, U.S. and British leaders accepted the borders of the Soviet Union as defined by the treaty with Germany. This in effect restored the borders of the Russian Empire.
The Allied leaders also allowed Stalin to extend the Soviet Union's sphere of influence throughout much of eastern and central Europe. The current attempt to justify the carving up of Europe during World War II comes as Russia once again is trying to establish its sphere of influence.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Clifford J. Levy, The New York Times, New York, NY, Thu, Aug 27, 2009

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — A year after its war with Georgia, Russia is engaging in an increasingly hostile standoff with another pro-Western neighbor, Ukraine.

Relations between the two countries are more troubled than at any time since the Soviet collapse, as both sides resort to provocations and recriminations. And it is here on the Crimean Peninsula, home to a Russian naval base, where the tensions are perhaps most in danger of bursting into open conflict.

Late last month, the Ukrainian police briefly detained Russian military personnel who were driving truckloads of missiles through this port city, as if they were smugglers who had come ashore with a haul of contraband. Local officials, it seemed, were seeking to make clear that this was no longer friendly terrain.

Ukraine has in recent years been at the forefront of the effort by some former Soviet republics to switch their alliances to the West, and it appears that the Kremlin has, in some sense, had enough.

President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia denounced Ukraine this month for “anti-Russian” policies, citing in particular its “incessant attempts” to harass Russia’s naval base in Sevastopol. Mr. Medvedev condemned Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and its support for Georgia, and said he would not send an ambassador to Ukraine.

And the criticism has not let up since then.

Monday was Ukrainian independence day, and Russian prosecutors used the occasion to accuse Ukrainian soldiers and members of Ukrainian nationalist groups of fighting alongside Georgia’s military in the war last August. The Ukrainians denied the charges, but they underscored the bitterness in Moscow.
For its part, the Ukrainian government, which took power after the Orange Revolution of 2004, has repeatedly accused Russia of acting as a bully and trying to dominate the former Soviet space both militarily and economically.

Looming is a presidential election in Ukraine in January, which might cause Ukrainian candidates to respond more aggressively to Russia to show their independence. The Kremlin might seek to exploit the situation to help pro-Russian politicians in Kiev.

Both countries publicly avow that they do not want the bad feelings to spiral out of control. Still, they persist, especially in Sevastopol, where Russia has maintained a naval base since czarist times.

The Kremlin has bristled at what it sees as Ukraine’s disrespectful governing of a city that it formerly controlled — one that was the site of momentous military battles, including in the Crimean War and World War II. Ukraine appears to regard the base as a sign that Russia still wants to project its military might over the region.

The Ukrainians have not only briefly detained Russian military personnel transporting missiles on several occasions this summer. They also expelled a Russian diplomat who oversees naval issues and barred officers from the F.S.B., the Russian successor to the K.G.B., from working in Sevastopol.
The Ukrainians are trying to close a nearby Russian navigation station and are threatening penalties over supposed pollution from Russian vessels off Sevastopol, which is on the south of the Crimean Peninsula.

“Ukraine has become more demanding, and has a right to do that,” said the Sevastopol mayor, Sergei V. Kunitsyn, an appointee of the Ukrainian government.
Mr. Kunitsyn said Russian military trucks transporting missiles in Sevastopol had been stopped and searched by the police because their route had not been approved in advance, as is required under accords signed by Russia.

He insisted that day-to-day interactions involving the Russian fleet were being carried out in a businesslike manner in Sevastopol, a city of 350,000.
He said Ukraine was not trying to oust the Russian fleet, though he did raise the prospect of additional pressure.

“If we wanted to, they would have such problems that they would never be able to leave the port,” he said. “According to the law, we could find 1,000 reasons why the fleet could simply not live.”

The Crimean Peninsula, which has two million people, is part of Ukraine through something of a historic fluke. In 1954, Nikita S. Khrushchev, then the Soviet leader, transferred it to Ukraine from Russia, though at the time the decision had little significance because both were part of the Soviet Union.
Besides serving as host for the Black Sea Fleet, the peninsula had a cherished role in the Soviet era as a vacation spot, with beaches and abundant fruits and vegetables.

After the Soviet fall, Russia reached a deal with Ukraine to maintain the base in Sevastopol, under a lease that ends in 2017. The Ukrainian president, Viktor A. Yushchenko, has declared that it will not be renewed, though his successors may not concur.

The current concern is that a spark in Crimea — however unlikely — could touch off a violent confrontation or even the kind of fighting that broke out between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia.

The situation is particularly uneasy because the population in Crimea is roughly 60 percent ethnic Russian and would prefer that the peninsula separate from Ukraine and be part of Russia. (Sevastopol has an even higher proportion of ethnic Russians.)

People have been upset by new Ukrainian government policies that require the use of the Ukrainian language, rather than Russian, in government activities, including some courses in public schools. Throughout downtown Sevastopol last week, residents set up booths to gather signatures on petitions in an effort to overturn the regulations.
And on Monday, Ukrainian independence day, ethnic Russians in Crimea held anti-Ukrainian demonstrations.
Sergei P. Tsekov, a senior politician in Crimea who heads the main ethnic Russian communal organization, said he hoped that Russia would wholeheartedly endorse Crimean separatism just as it did the aspirations of South Ossetia and another Georgian enclave, Abkhazia.
“The central authorities in Ukraine are provoking the people of Crimea,” Mr. Tsekov said. “They relate to us like Georgia related to the Abkhazians and South Ossetians. They think that we’re going to forget our roots, our language, our history, our heroes. Only stupid people would think that we’re going to do that. Unfortunately, stupid people currently lead Ukraine.”
Crimean separatists have been encouraged by prominent politicians in Russia, including Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, and a senior member of Parliament, Konstantin F. Zatulin, both of whom have been barred from Ukraine by the government because of their assertions that Sevastopol belongs to Russia.
The Kremlin has not publicly backed the separatists, though it has declared that the rights of ethnic Russians in Crimea must not be violated.
While not denying frictions between Russia and Ukraine, Mr. Kunitsyn, Sevastopol’s mayor, said ethnic Russians in the city were more worried about the local economy than who was in charge of the local government. He said employment in military and merchant fleets had dropped sharply.
“People are slowly getting used to the idea that Sevastopol is Ukraine’s, and that Ukraine is helping Sevastopol,” he said.

Near the harbor, though, residents did not necessarily agree. Larisa G. Bakanova, 74, a retired teacher, was at a petition booth not far from a monument to Adm. Pavel S. Nakhimov, who led Russia’s defense of Sevastopol in the Crimean War in the 1850s. She said people had eagerly signed up to oppose Ukrainian language mandates.
“The pressure from Kiev is more and more intense,” she said. “They are stirring us up. They need to understand that this is the city of Sevastopol — a city of military glory, a city of Russian glory.”
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.
Russia is caught between continents and haunted by its past. Richard Pipes on the
need to convince a nation to dial back its aggressive tendencies and join the West.
By Richard Pipes, The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Mon, August 24, 2009
Russia is obsessed with being recognized as a "Great Power." She has felt as one since the 17th century, after having conquered Siberia, but especially since her victory in World War II over Germany and the success in sending the first human into space. It costs nothing to defer to her claims to such exalted status, to show her respect, to listen to her wishes.
From this point of view, the recent remarks about Russia by Vice President Joe Biden in an interview with this newspaper were both gratuitous and harmful. "Russia has to make some very difficult calculated decisions," he said. "They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years."
These remarks are not inaccurate but stating them publicly serves no purpose other than to humiliate Russia. The trends the vice president described will likely make Russia more open to cooperating with the West, Mr. Biden suggested. It is significant that when our secretary of state tried promptly to repair the damage which Mr. Biden's words had caused, Izvestiia, a leading Russian daily, proudly announced in a headline, "Hillary Clinton acknowledges Russia as a Great Power."
Russia's influence on world affairs derives not from her economic power or cultural authority but her unique geopolitical location. She is not only the world's largest state with the world's longest frontier, but she dominates the Eurasian land mass, touching directly on three major regions: Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
This situation enables her to exploit to her advantage crises that occur in the most populous and strategic areas of the globe. For this reason, she is and will remain a major player in world politics.

Opinion polls indicate that most Russians regret the passing of the Soviet Union and feel nostalgia for Stalin. Of course, they miss not the repression of human rights which occurred under Communism nor the miserable standards of living but the status of their country as a force to be reckoned with: a country to be respected and feared. Under present conditions, the easiest way for them to achieve this objective is to say "no" to the one undeniable superpower, the United States.
This accounts for their refusal to deal more effectively with Iran, for example, or their outrage at America's proposal to install rocket defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Their media delight in reporting any negative news about the United States, especially the dollar, which they predict will soon be worthless (even as their central bank holds $120 billion or 30% of its reserves in dollar-denominated U.S. securities).
One unfortunate consequence of the obsession with "great power" status is that it leads Russians to neglect the internal conditions in their country. And here there is much to be done. To begin with: the economy. The Russian aggression against Georgia has cost it dearly in terms of capital flight.
Due to the decline in the global prices of energy, which constitute around 70% of Russian exports, exports in the first half of 2009 have fallen by 47%. The stock market, which suffered a disastrous decline in 2008, has recovered, and the ruble has held steady, but the hard currency reserves are melting and the future does not look promising.
The latest statistics indicate that Russia's GDP this year will fall by 7%. It is this that has prompted President Dmitry Medvedev recently to demand that Russia carry out a major restructuring of her economy and end her heavy reliance on energy exports. "Russia needs to move forward," he told a gathering of parliamentary party leaders, "and this movement so far does not exist. We are marking time and this was clearly demonstrated by the crisis... as soon as the crisis occurred, we collapsed. And we collapsed more than many other countries."
One of the major obstacles to conducting business in Russia is the all-pervasive corruption. Because the government plays such an immense role in the country's economy, controlling some of its most important sectors, little can be done without bribing officials.
A recent survey by Russia's Ministry of the Interior revealed, without any apparent embarrassment, that the average amount of a bribe this year has nearly tripled compared to the previous year, amounting to more than 27,000 rubles or nearly $1,000. To make matters worse, businesses cannot rely on courts to settle their claims and disputes, and in extreme cases resort to arbitration.

The political situation may appear to a foreigner inculcated with Western values as incomprehensible. Democratic institutions, while not totally suppressed, play little role in the conduct of affairs defined by the leading ideologist of the regime as "sovereign democracy." Indeed, President Medvedev has publicly declared his opposition to "parliamentary democracy" on the grounds that it would destroy Russia.
A single party, One Russia, virtually monopolizes power, assisted by the Communists and a couple of minor affiliates. Parliamentary bodies duly pass all bills presented to them by the government. Television, the main source of news for the vast country, is monopolized by the state.
One lonely radio station and a few low-circulation newspapers are allowed freedom of expression in order to silence dissident intellectuals. And yet, the population at large seems not to mind this political arrangement—an acquiescence which runs contrary to the Western belief that all people crave the right to choose and direct their government.
The solution of the puzzle lies in the fact that during their 1,000-year old history of statehood, the Russians have virtually never been given the opportunity to elect their government or to influence its actions. As a result of this experience, they have become thoroughly depoliticized. They do not see what positive influence the government can have on their lives. They believe that they have to fend for themselves.
Yes, they will gladly accept social services if offered, as they had been under the Soviet government, but they do not expect them. They hardly feel themselves to be citizens of a great state, but confine their loyalties to their immediate families and friends and the locality which they inhabit. From opinion polls it emerges that they believe democracy everywhere to be a sham, that all governments are run by crooks who use their power to enrich themselves.
What they demand of the authorities is that they maintain order: when asked what is more important to them—"order" or "freedom"—the inhabitants of the province of Voronezh overwhelmingly expressed preference for "order." Indeed, they identify political freedom, i.e., democracy, with anarchy and crime. Which explains why the population at large, except for the well-educated, urban minority, expresses no dismay at the repression of its political rights.

One aspect of the "great power" syndrome is imperialism. In 1991, Russia lost her empire, the last remaining in the world, as all her colonies, previously disguised as "union republics" separated themselves to form sovereign states. This imperial collapse was a traumatic experience to which most Russians still cannot adjust themselves. The reason for this lies in their history.
England, France, Spain and the other European imperial powers formed their empires overseas and did so after creating national states: As a result, they never confused their imperial possessions with the mother country. Hence, the departure of the colonies was for them relatively easy to bear.
Not so in the case of Russia. Here, the conquest of the empire occurred concurrently with the formation of the nation-state: Furthermore, there was no ocean to separate the colonies. As a result, the loss of empire caused confusion in the Russians' sense of national identity.
They have great difficulty acknowledging that the Ukraine, the cradle of their state, is now a sovereign republic and fantasize about the day when it will reunite with Mother Russia. They find it only slightly less difficult to acknowledge the sovereign status of Georgia, a small state that has been Russian for over two centuries. The imperial complex underpins much of Russia's foreign policy.

These imperial ambitions have received fresh expression from a bill which President Medvedev has submitted in mid-August to parliament. It would revise the existing Law of Defense which authorizes the Russian military to act only in response to foreign aggression.
The new law would allow them to act also "to return or prevent aggression against another state" and "to protect citizens of the Russian Federation abroad." It is easy to see how incidents could be provoked under this law that would allow Russian forces to intervene outside their borders.
How does one deal with such a difficult yet weighty neighbor, a neighbor who can cause no end of mischief if it becomes truly obstreperous? It seems to me that foreign powers ought to treat Russia on two distinct levels: one, which takes into consideration her sensitivities; the other, which responds to her aggressiveness.

We are right in objecting strenuously to Russia treating her one-time colonial possessions not as sovereign countries but dependencies lying in her "privileged zone of influence." Even so, we should be aware of their sensitivity to introducing Western military forces so close to her borders. The Russian government and the majority of its citizens regard NATO as a hostile alliance.
One should, therefore, be exceedingly careful in avoiding any measures that would convey the impression that we are trying militarily to "encircle" the Russian Federation. After all, we Americans, with our Monroe Doctrine and violent reaction to Russian military penetration into Cuba or any other region of the American continent, should well understand Moscow's reaction to NATO initiatives along its borders.

This said, a line must be drawn between gentle manners and the hard realities of politics. We should not acquiesce in Russia treating the countries of her "near abroad" as satellites and we acted correctly in protesting last year's invasion of Georgia. We should not allow Moscow a veto over the projected installation of our anti-rocket defenses in Poland the Czech Republic, done with the consent of their governments and meant to protect us against a future Iranian threat.
These interceptors and radar systems present not the slightest threat to Russia, as confirmed publicly by Russian general Vladimir Dvorkin, an officer with long service in his country's strategic forces. The only reason Moscow objects to them is that it considers Poland and the Czech Republic to lie within its "sphere of influence."
Today's Russians are disoriented: they do not quite know who they are and where they belong. They are not European: This is attested to by Russian citizens who, when asked. "Do you feel European?" by a majority of 56% to 12% respond "practically never." Since they are clearly not Asian either, they find themselves in a psychological limbo, isolated from the rest of the world and uncertain what model to adopt for themselves.
They try to make up for this confusion with tough talk and tough actions. For this reason, it is incumbent on the Western powers patiently to convince Russians that they belong to the West and should adopt Western institutions and values: democracy, multi-party system, rule of law, freedom of speech and press, respect for private property.
This will be a painful process, especially if the Russian government refuses to cooperate. But, in the long run, it is the only way to curb Russia's aggressiveness and integrate her into the global community.

NOTE: Richard Pipes is Frank B. Baird Jr. professor of history, emeritus, at Harvard University. In 1981 and 1982 he served as Director of East European and Soviet Affairs in President Reagan's National Security Council.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Russia’s president writes his Ukrainian counterpart an insulting letter
Economist print edition, Kiev and Moscow, Thu, Aug 20, 2009

RUSSIA marked the first anniversary of its war with Georgia with a verbal salvo against Ukraine. Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, wrote Viktor Yushchenko, his Ukrainian counterpart, an open letter with a familiar litany of complaints. Ukraine was supplying arms to Georgia, complicating the life of Russia’s Black Sea fleet (which is based in Sebastopol, a Ukrainian port), signing treacherous pipeline deals with the European Union, kicking out Russian diplomats and falsifying joint Soviet history.

Less familiarly, Mr Medvedev posted a special video blog to publicise his letter. Dressed in ominous black, and overlooking the Black Sea with two military boats on the horizon, Mr Medvedev said the Kremlin would not be sending its new ambassador to Kiev.

It took Viktor Yushchenko several days to reply. His response was measured: Ukraine had done nothing illegal towards Georgia; had the right to choose its friends; was entitled to its own view of history and its language; and had repeatedly asked the Kremlin to remove some of its diplomats involved in non-diplomatic work.

But Mr Medvedev was not interested in what Mr Yushchenko had to say. He wanted to register Russia’s hand in Ukraine’s presidential election due on January 17th. That election is of almost as much importance to Russia as it is to Ukraine itself. In the previous presidential election, Russia backed Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-friendly prime minister at the time. He lost badly and so did Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s president and now prime minister, who had rushed to congratulate him.

The Kremlin fears making the same mistake twice. But this time, in insulting Mr Yushchenko, it is kicking someone who it thinks is certain to lose anyway. It is also laying down rules which it implies the next president must respect if he or she is to be accepted in Moscow. The ability to influence Ukraine’s policy is seen by Russia as a test of its resurgence.
To show the range of options for reintegrating Ukraine into its “sphere of privileged interest”, Russia recently dispatched Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, on a tour of Ukraine. “When I walked through huge crowds of people, chanting ‘Kirill is our patriarch’, I understood that our great spiritual unity …has become a basic value which cannot be shaken by politics,” he told a doubtless grateful Mr Medvedev on his return.

As the war in Georgia showed, the Kremlin has other means of persuasion at its disposal. On August 10th, a day before the video blog, Mr Medvedev announced new, simplified rules for using Russian military force outside the country to protect Russian citizens and defend units stationed abroad.

A full-blown military conflict with Ukraine seems unlikely but is no longer unthinkable. (Two years ago a war between Russia and Georgia seemed equally unlikely.) Andrei Illarionov, once an adviser to Mr Putin and now a fierce critic, says the key factor is not whether Russia has the military capacity for a confrontation with Ukraine, but that aggression towards the neighbours has become a way of life for the Kremlin.
In the past decade, Russia has managed to alienate almost all the former Soviet republics, even undemocratic Belarus. Trade wars and energy cut-offs have become standard policy responses.

Of all the neighbouring republics, Ukraine remains the largest and most important. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Polish-born American national security adviser, once wrote: “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine, suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.”
It is far from clear, even now, that Russia has fully accepted Ukraine’s sovereignty. At a NATO summit in Bucharest last year Mr Putin reportedly told President George Bush, “You understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state!”

Unlike Georgia or the Baltic states, which had longer traditions of running their own affairs, Ukraine has had little experience of statehood. “In the last 80 years of the 20th century we declared our independence six times. Five times we lost it,” Mr Yushchenko pointed out in a recent interview.

Ukraine’s politicians and voters seem to be leaving the country vulnerable again. According to a recent poll, more Ukranians think their own government is the biggest security threat to their country than believe Russia is. Corruption and squabbling inside the ruling Orange coalition have paralysed governance.
The majority of presidential decrees do not get implemented. Since June Ukraine has not had a defence minister. Its economy contracted by 18% in the second quarter of the year.

“People have lost any respect for their own state,” says Yulia Mostovaya, an influential journalist in Kiev. National ideals have been discredited by cynicism and the corruption of ruling politicians tainted by shady gas deals with Russia. Meanwhile the version of order projected by Russia’s television channels looks increasingly popular (more than 90% of Ukranians say they feel positive about Russia, whereas 42% of Russians see Ukraine as an enemy).

Few leading Ukrainian politicians publicly rebutted Mr Medvedev’s insult to Mr Yushchenko. Most used it as yet another opportunity to kick him. “We have reached a critical point, a point of bifurcation,” says Anatoly Gritsenko, Ms Mostovaya’s husband, a former defence minister and one of the presidential candidates. “Either Ukraine is going down, towards disintegration, or it will start recovering. But the current unstable situation cannot last.”

Russia’s own situation may not be entirely stable and its current rulers may be tempted to provoke a conflict with Ukraine to consolidate their position. One thing looks increasingly certain: the relationship between Russia and Ukraine will be a worry for European security.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
By Ron Popeski, Reuters, Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Aug 24, 2009

KIEV  - President Viktor Yushchenko criticized domestic and foreign detractors on Monday and said Ukraine needed strong institutions to parry threats to its future prosperity.

Yushchenko, whose standing is at rock bottom as he seeks re-election in January, was marking the 18th anniversary of independence from Soviet rule as Ukraine's most modern warplanes and transport aircraft flew in formation over Kiev city center.
Speaking in Independence Square, focal point of "Orange Revolution" rallies that swept him to power in 2004, Yushchenko made no direct reference to Russia despite a recent spat.  He spoke only briefly of foreign policy issues that have generated hostility in the Kremlin -- including a drive to secure NATO membership.
"I choose a strong state, strength and dignity, to put in their place not only our local feudals but also foreign overlords who want to set down how we should live," Yushchenko said in his 25-minute address. "I choose a full-fledged future for our country in the future of a united Europe."
For the second year running, several thousand servicemen paraded down Kiev's main thoroughfare, Khreshchatyk Street, and about three dozen aircraft, fighters, bombers and large military transports, roared overhead.
Tanks rolled down Khreshchatyk last year but this time were parked by the square for crowds to admire. After his address, the president rode down the street aboard an armored truck.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev this month accused Yushchenko of anti-Russian policies and said he had given up on any improvement on relations as long as he remained in power.  Yushchenko denied the accusation and invited the Russian president for talks.

Relations have soured over Yushchenko's bid to seek NATO membership, his criticism of Russia's military intervention in Georgia and Kiev's insistence
that Russia's Black Sea Fleet must leave its base in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula by 2017.  The neighbors have also been at odds over gas supplies and prices.

Yushchenko has little chance of re-election as his ratings have hit single figures after nearly five years of infighting. He trails former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed candidate who was initially declared the winner of the 2004 presidential election but lost a re-run after the courts struck down the result as rigged.

Lying second is current prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the president's estranged ally. Yushchenko twice appointed her premier, but the two have sniped constantly as Ukraine slipped into a recession, with gross domestic product plunging 18.0 percent year-on-year in the second quarter.
Tymoshenko has been more moderate in her comments on Russia. both politicians have pledged to seek better ties with Moscow. In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent best wishes on the anniversary to Tymoshenko.
In an oblique reference to the election, Putin hoped the two governments would "contribute to solving practical tasks of cooperation and create a favorable atmosphere for moving forward all aspects of relations between Russia and Ukraine."
Yushchenko has long sought to overturn changes dating from 2004 that cut his power in favor of parliament and the cabinet. Nearly all public figures have proposed some sort of revision. He said he would sign a decree calling for a country-wide discussion of constitutional changes he has already proposed to settle rows between the president, government and parliament.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC):
Promoting U.S.-Ukraine business relations & investment since 1995.
Analysis & Commentary: by Vladislav GULEVICH (Ukraine)
Strategic Culture Foundation, Moscow, Russia, Sat, August 22, 2009
The 24th of August is Ukraine’s Independence Day. Just what did Ukraine gain and what did it lose as a result of its independence, or rather, as a result of the break-up of what was once a common Pan-Russian area, which Ukrainian lands have been part of for centuries? Also, what else can the country lose by stubbornly and awkwardly playing the role of a “sovereign state”?

All countries could be conventionally divided into three groups depending on the degree of their clout on the international scene. Superpowers naturally top the ratings list. Today it is only the United States that boasts the status (with China on the way). The United States can take the liberty of making decisions on its own on key world security issues, as well as of deciding on its foreign policy moves the way it pleases.
The US is followed by regional leaders, such as Russia, China, Germany, Brazil, India and some other nations.
And the third group embraces the countries of the lowest international standing and limited capacity even at the regional level. These are most countries of the former USSR, Ukraine included. Today’s Ukraine is a nation of ephemeral independence, one that has de-facto led it into full dependence on the West.

Today’s Ukraine’s territory has for centuries on end been part of the Russian State. It was a mere 100 to 150 years ago that the residents of Ukraine (known as Malorossia, or Little Russia) identified themselves with Russians and had Russian self-awareness with only slight regional differences.
From the moment of joining Russia to 1991 Ukraine expanded its area fivefold by including the areas that were either presented to it by the Russian rulers or conquered with the assistance of the very same Russian rulers from the enemies.
Ukraine has thus attached Bukovina, Volyn, Crimea, Novorossia and Eastern Ukraine. Russian Tsars decreed the founding of Ukraine’s largest cities, - Odessa, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Nikolaev, Kherson, Kharkov, Donetsk, Lugansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Dneprodzerzhinsk, Yelisavetgrad. The thatched roof huts were replaced with powerful industry, communications, medicine, education and sciences.

Many Russian thinkers believed Russia to be a self-contained power, which provided for peaceful coexistence of many nationalities. These peoples saw Russia as a protectress of Eurasian nations and the backbone of stability in Eurasia. A prominent Russian geopolitician Piotr Savitsky wrote that “Russia has gained its geopolitical self-sufficiency and retained its spiritual independence from the aggressive Romano-Germanic world”.
The independent Ukraine cannot boast of any of such achievements. The lands that have fallen away from Russia have failed to become subjects of geopolitics since they lack sufficient political authority. They at once succumb to foreign influence and turn from a subject of politics into an object of politics, which largely predetermines their foreign policy pattern.
When Ukraine broke away from Russia and chose the path of autonomous navigation, it suddenly found out it was not free to decide on its political future and had, as an object of politics should, to submissively obey the subject of politics, which at present is the United States vis-à-vis Ukraine.
When breaking away from Russia as the subject of politics, Ukraine have not become part of either Europe or Russia but has been degraded instead to some sort of a “backyard” of the European continent. Ukrainian separatism, which was initially folklore-based, has turned, through an effort of an “enlightened” Europe, into a clearly political anti-Russian project.
If seen from a historical perspective, the idea of Ukraine’s independence is the result of an inflamed imagination of strategists of the General Staff of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and their Polish vassals. But today it is not only Ukraine’s economy and Ukraine’s industry that are sacrificed to Washington’s strategic plans, but also Ukraine’s culture, which the Kiev-based officials increasingly often use as part of their anti-Russian policy.

The fervent desire to uproot every trace of Malorossia’s belonging to the Pan-Russian cultural tree bears fruit that are to be deplored, above all by Ukraine proper. There’s been a dramatic drop in the population’s educational standards; society is on its way to a split, which may cause the large groups of Ukrainians to start feeling bitter hatred towards each other.
As one observes Ukraine’s piteous international situation, with the “orange” politicians exerting themselves to build a separate “Ukrainian civilization” in keeping with the US recipes only to achieve public rejection, one can’t help recalling the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, who wrote that the dignity of the state depends on the dignity of the individuals that form that state.
The prominent Englishman’s maxim is the aptest definition of the current situation in Ukraine, which has been doomed to an intellectually miserable life and
primitive provincialism.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Interview with Orest Deychakiwsky, Policy Advisor, Helsinki Commission
By Myroslava Gongadze, Voice of America (VOA), Wash, D.C., Fri, Aug 21, 2009
MG: Joining us today at the Voice of America is Orest Deychakiwsky, policy advisor at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission (Washington, D.C.)

Orest, thank you for coming today.

OD: Thank you.

MG: Ukraine is celebrating eighteen years of independence. What do you see as the major accomplishment for Ukraine over the last eighteen years?

OD: The major accomplishment, if one looks at it from a historical perspective, is the very fact of independence. It is an unbelievably important event, not only for Ukraine itself, which struggled mightily often over the centuries and decades for that independence, but also for Europe as a whole, and Ukraine’s independence has had very important and significant implications for the region and, indeed, for the world.
Ukraine has, throughout the eighteen years, it has built its state institutions, as imperfect as they are. Ukraine has freedoms, respect for rights and liberties. Again, it’s not a perfect process, it’s an evolving process, but when one compares it, for instance, to Russia or Belorus, its closest Eastern Slavic neighbors, Ukraine is a far better place in many respects.

MG: I think the world already learned that Ukraine is this big country in Europe.   As a long-time advocate for Ukraine’s independence in the United States, what do you think is the biggest disappointment of the last eighteen years?

OD: Well, the biggest disappointment – I’d put it in several categories – I would say the biggest disappointment is the lack of rule of law. Or the inadequacy, I should say, of the rule of law, corruption, the internal political squabbles, the lack of, and this is going back into several of the last years, the lack of a delineation of powers between the prime-minster and the president, the lack of a completion of economic reforms.
There’s definitely been a good start, but it’s not a completed process yet. So, Ukraine has moved along, but it’s not a consolidated democracy yet. And that’s perhaps the biggest obstacle.
That’s not, admittedly, one thing, that’s several things, but all these things are related. And I think, whereas Ukraine’s independence is assured, despite Medvedev’s recent aggressive comments last week, despite Putin telling George Bush last year that Ukraine is not really a state, despite Russian actions towards Ukraine, which definitely have not been helpful. 
I’m confident that Ukraine will remain independent, because it has the power and the ability to withstand such pressure. But the question is – the quality of that independence.

MG: If we could go back in time – was there a moment in history, in these eighteen years, when things could have gone differently?

OD: Well, clearly, one was the Orange Revolution. And as one who himself had been an OSCE election observer and who stood on the Maydan for the first few days too and saw all the energy and the tremendous number of people and what they were calling for, there’s no question about it, that there have been a lot of missed opportunities and that all of the promises of the Orange Revolution, -- many of them, sad to say -- have not been fulfilled. Which is not the same as to say that none of them have.
I’d say even with that Ukraine’s a better place than it was in many respects before the Orange Revolution. But there’s no question about it that there has been a disappointment and there’s been a lot of frustration because of that, not only here in the United States or in Europe, but first and foremost among the Ukrainian people themselves. And it’s not accidental that prominent politicians in Ukraine have low ratings.

MG: How is Ukraine viewed today on Capitol Hill? Why is Ukraine important for the United States? That’s a question a lot of Ukrainians ask. 

OD:  Well, it’s still important because it plays a major contributing role in fostering security and stability in the region and the world. And if you have an independent, democratic, prosperous Ukraine, you’re going to have a Europe and a region that’s a lot better. But second of all – and I’ll be a little less diplomatic than some might be on this – but without Ukraine you don’t have a Russian Empire or a Soviet Union.
And that clearly is in the United States’ and the world’s interest, because one just needs to look at the history of the Soviet Union, and I think it becomes very clear, you know. That doesn’t mean that Americans or people don’t think that Ukraine should have good relations with Russia, but they should be done on a basis where Russia shows respect for Ukraine, and I’m not sure that’s been happening, in fact it has not been happening, especially lately.

MG: In the  situation of Russia aggression, we hear a lot of statements, we saw the Duma pass the law to defend their soldiers -- there’s a lot of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, as we know, in the Black Sea fleet – in the situation of aggression, which we know happened with Georgia, what would the United States be able to do? How would the United States be able to support in such a situation?

OD:  That’s an interesting question, where we really get into the nitty-gritty of policy things. You’d have diplomatic support in that worst-case scenario. It’d definitely, without a doubt, should something like that happen, harm our, U.S. relations with Russia. I think if that happened you could forget any kind of reset, or whatever. There might be economic sanctions, or what have you.  So there’s an arsenal, if you will, of tools that the U.S. could possible undertake in that kind of very negative scenario.
I happen to think -- and maybe I’m going out on a limb here -- that Russia, as irrational as the statements of some of its leadership are, and I think we know what’s behind that and part of it is this continuing inability for all-too-many Russians to come to terms with an independent Ukraine. That’s, I think, at the core and the root of the problem and there are a lot of reasons for that that could take a whole another discussion.
But I don’t think that Russia, even the current leadership, would really try to provoke a war, or something along the lines of what Dugin said the other day or what that resolution calls for. And especially because – with all due respect to Georgia – Ukraine isn’t Georgia. And if Russia tried anything, frankly, there would be a lot more push-back on the part of Ukraine, and I think the more-sober heads in the Kremlin completely understand that. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be attempts -- and of course they already exist – to continue to influence or even undermine Ukraine, especially governments, or presidents, like now.

MG: To interfere in the internal affairs or the elections…

OD: Exactly. You could already see that coming. Of course the Russians should keep in mind, and I’ve even seen some commentators from Russia say that may not be a good idea because that could end up having a counterproductive effect.

MG: Backfire.

OD: Backfire. Precisely. So we’ll see what happens in that realm. But I think it’s an unhealthy relationship and most of it is for the reasons I think I said, that the core of the problem being Russia’s inability to recognize and to accept, even psychologically or emotionally – even if they accept it, in a way, intellectually – that Ukraine, their brother, as they often like to refer to it, or cousins, Ukrainians, want to chart their own future and that that future might be a bit different than Russia’s future. 

MG: It’s a good ending point for our interview. What is the future of Ukraine?

OD: This is not original, but I remember somebody about a decade ago at one of these Washington think-tanks saying that “Ukraine is doomed to succeed.” And I believe that it is. It’s sort of muddling along. It’s done a lot of things right. 

MG: And a lot of things wrong.

OD: Exactly. Whenever you’re talking about Ukraine you sort of have to talk, “on the one hand, on the other hand.” Compare it with Belarus. Ukraine has an open political system. It respects human rights and all that.
Yes, it’s vulnerable to Russian pressures, partly because it doesn’t quite have its act together internally and all the squabbling and what-not, the energy question, which is a major vulnerability to Russia and which is something that Ukraine really has had a deficit on in terms of confronting the energy issue.
But then on the other hand, if you think about it, Belarus is even more vulnerable to Russia. If it had an open political system, like Ukraine, if it had more market reforms, like Ukraine – even though, again, in Ukraine it’s still a work in progress – if it was more, shall we say, European, if it had a more open political system, it would be less vulnerable to Russia. And we see right now how vulnerable Lukashenka is to Russia. It’s really a problem.

MG: Of the three countries – Belarus, Russia and Ukraine – which signed the agreement to go their separate ways in ’91, who succeeded the most?

OD: I think despite all its flaws Ukraine has succeeded the most. It is moving in a Western direction, becoming more of a normal, civilized country. And it’s moving forward even if it’s in fits and starts, even if it sometimes muddles along. Where Belarus and Russia seem to be moving backwards in many respects. 
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Op-Ed: By John Marone, Columnist, Kyiv, Ukraine,
Eurasian Home website, Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 28, 2009
A lot has been written about U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Kyiv. But the man didn’t say anything earth shattering, because there really wasn’t anything earth shattering to say. More importantly, it really wasn’t clear whom he should have been trying to deliver Washington’s message to in Ukraine, as no one has been in charge of the newly independent country for a long time.
Instead, Mr. Biden must have intended to sniff the scene out for himself, while the Obama administration continues to bide its time.
Following upon the visit of President Obama to Moscow, Biden was widely expected to clarify the new administration’s ‘reset’ policy with the Kremlin.
However, Obama had already done that himself with the hopeful optimism and colorful eloquence that we have come to expect of him. Did Ukrainians not follow the news reports on the statements Mr. Obama made in Moscow?
During a speech at Moscow’s New Economic School – Obama apparently thought Russian college students would be more receptive to his post-racial charm – the U.S. president clarified his country’s already clear position.
"State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order,” he said. And, "Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies. And "Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy. That is why this principle must apply to all nations - including Georgia and Ukraine."
In other words, America does not condone Russia bullying its former colonies. The only thing that Mr. Biden could add was a personal appearance in Ukraine (in lieu of the more important Obama) and a few passionate excerpts from American history delivered in that home spun and sometimes misspoken style that we have come to expect from him.

“The generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it," Mr. Biden quoted Thomas Jefferson in reference to Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. “In any true democracy, freedom is the beginning, not the end,” he underlined, sounding a bit like George W. Bush.

Then, as if for use as a sound bite that would satisfy all the expectations about his visit, Mr. Biden said: “Let me say this as clearly as I can. As we reset the relationship with Russia, we reaffirm our commitment to an independent Ukraine.”

In the end, Ukrainians eager to hear about U.S. support against their overbearing northern neighbor seemed to be satisfied if not wildly enthusiastic about that little tidbit thrown to them.

However others, particularly the Western media, tuned into other parts of Mr. Biden’s speech, which they described as a rebuke of Ukrainian leaders.
“I'm also here to offer my honest opinion. Friendship requires honesty. And the honest truth is that the great promise of the 2004 -- of 2004, has yet to be fully realized,” the vice president gently chided, this time invoking Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

“Ukraine, in my humble opinion, must heed the lessons of history -- effective, accountable government is the only way to provide stable, predictable, and a transparent environment that attracts investment, which is the economic engine of development,” he continued.

And also: “Ukraine uses energy about three times less efficiently than the EU average, including your next-door neighbor, Poland. If you lift Ukraine to European standards, your need for energy imports will dramatically decline -- just that one single action, none other. That would be a boon to your economy and an immeasurable benefit, I respectfully suggest, to your national security.”

Probably the harshest ‘old Joe’ got was when he said: “The time for inertia and neglect is long past. It's time for action, as I know you know better than I.”
In short, Mr. Biden expressed in (again) his characteristically folksy manner what everyone knew to be the U.S. position on Ukraine all along: Stop the political buffoonery for heaven’s sake and reform your energy sector, or it’s going to be difficult for us to support you, Ukraine!

Probably the only one on the edge of his seat during Mr. Biden’s remarks was Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who has staked his virtually doomed political career on a policy of Western integration.

"Ukraine hopes that it will not become the third side, through which other countries will make compromises to reach their interests," he said weeks before the Biden visit.

Unfortunately for Mr. Yushchenko and all his Western-looking countrymen, the comments made by Obama and Biden during their sorties to the former “evil empire” bespeak more a lack of foreign policy on the part of the new U.S. administration than any commitment to something new.

A ‘reset’ it is indeed, but the tape recorder is no longer going forward. For all the faults of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, with its Bible thumping commitment to the U.S. defense industry, the Obama team doesn’t look like it knows where it’s going.

To be sure, the new president is careful, as well he should be, considering his obvious lack of experience. However, soothing the worries of seemingly careless Ukrainian leaders is not going to diminish the dangers of dealing with a sullen and often spiteful Russian bear.

Biden reportedly said in a recent interview that the “withering” Russian economy will force the Kremlin to ease up on its former republics and play strategic partner with the U.S. Has this man ever read Richard Pipes? Since when has Russia ever stopped being an empire? Or to put it a better way: Russia without an empire is no longer Russia!

A quick look at Mr. Obama’s list of US-Russian partner goals underlines the point:

     [1] Halting the spread of nuclear weapons – Ok, but there seems to be more and more of them in other countries, which neither Russia nor the US have
           been able to curb.
     [2] Confronting violent extremists – What extremists? Chechens, the ethereal Al Qaida or Moscow skinheads?
     [3] Ensuring economic prosperity – By building gas pipelines around Russia?
     [4] Advancing human rights of people – See goal #2.
     [5] Fostering co-operation without jeopardizing sovereignty – See Richard Pipes on Russia’s eternal imperial identity crisis.
That brings us back to the real purpose of Obama’s and Biden’s recent visits: There wasn’t one! George Bush figured out pretty quickly what was really in Vladimir Putin’s eyes, and the Obama administration is going to find out sooner or later as well.
It was good that Mr. Obama visited Russian opposition leaders and media, and that Biden spoke with Mr. Yanukovych as well as Ms. Tymoshenko. But these meetings will do little to change the course of events already in motion.
Mr. Biden is right in assuming that Russia’s economy is withered, and Obama could have said even more about the Kremlin’s human-rights record, but that wouldn’t change anything either.
Moscow has no more intention of pulling out of Georgia than it does of allowing Ukraine and Georgia join NATO. Russia can only be pushed so far, because that’s the kind of country it is. Just like Ukraine can only be so united, as it’s always been split down the middle.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden are no doubt aware of the threat of instability in both countries, but there really isn’t much they can do, except bide their time, wait for better economic times, try to not say anything earth shattering.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
By Andre de Nesnera, Voice of America (VOA) Wash, D.C., Wed, 26 Aug 2009

Political squabbling and a dire economic situation in Ukraine are a far cry from the heady days of the "Orange Revolution" when there were high hopes for that country's future.
Ukraine's current pro-western president, Viktor Yushchenko, was elected in December 2004 after hundreds of thousands of his supporters took to the streets to protest the results of an earlier election declared fraudulent by the Ukrainian Supreme Court and international monitors.

That massive protest became known as the "Orange Revolution," named after the color worn by Yushchenko's supporters. In a second, court-ordered election, Mr. Yushchenko defeated pro-Moscow Viktor Yanukovich, now head of the powerful "Party of Regions" in the Ukrainian parliament.
There was great euphoria in Ukraine then and confidence that the "Orange Revolution" would usher in a new era.

Oksana Antonenko, with the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says the "Orange Revolution" had a dramatic effect on Ukrainian politics. "That is Ukraine now has a pluralist society where different points of view are represented within the political elite - and where there is a genuine choice for the electorate of what kind of ideas and what kind of ideology they support when they go to the polls.
"And I think one should not diminish the importance of that achievement, given that in the entire post-Soviet area, with the exception of the Baltic States, that kind of pluralism simply does not exist. It certainly does not exist still today in Georgia. It does not exist in Russia. It does not exist in Central Asia or in fact in any other country. And I think in that sense Ukraine remains an exceptional case," Antonenko said.

But Antonenko and other experts, such as Robert Legvold of Columbia University, say this pluralism brought about bitter political fights between President Yushchenko and his former "Orange Revolution" ally, now Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko - squabbling that continues to this day.

"And that has produced not only a stalemate, political stalemate and an inability to make progress between the executive branch and the parliament, but a kind of poisonous, petty political competition among leaders that has alienated the public at large, which is for the most part very unsatisfied with all of the major political leaders in Ukraine. And that makes it very difficult for the government, even if it were to get its act together, to mobilize the population behind it," Legvold said.

Experts say the political infighting, coupled with allegations of corruption in the Yushchenko administration, have disillusioned Ukrainians even more.
Legvold says another black mark against Mr. Yushchenko is Ukraine's dire economic situation. "It is worse than in Russia, which is going to experience negative growth of between six and 7.5 percent this year, with an inflation rate of 13 percent or more. And in the case of Ukraine, the figures are considerably more negative. Ukraine is in worse shape than Russia on virtually all scores: unemployment, inflation, negative growth, prospects for slow or negative growth into the near future," he said.

David Marples, with the University of Alberta, says given all of Ukraine's problems, Mr. Yushchenko's approval rating is at an all time low. But that hasn't prevented him from becoming a candidate in January's presidential election. "His popularity is probably the lowest of any politician in Europe right now at around two percent. And it almost seems like he's oblivious to the problems that have been created - he's not addressing them.
"I read a speech of his quite recently where he was summarizing his years in office in order to justify running again, which of course he has decided to do. And he claimed that he had a good record and that he should be proud of his record. And I really wondered what there is to be proud of? Because in every particular area, it seems to have been a failure. And probably even more importantly, perceived as a failure by the population," he said.

Experts do not expect the political infighting and the gridlock between the president and the parliament to end before the January election. Some analysts even question whether the balloting will bring about any major changes and allow politicians to address Ukraine's major problems rather than continue fighting among themselves.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Ukraine Macroeconomic Report From SigmaBleyzer: 
By Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters, Moscow, Russia, Thu, August 27, 2009
MOSCOW - Russia accused Kiev of attempting to seize property belonging to its Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine on Thursday, in a sign of escalating tension between the two ex-Soviet neighbors.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet said it had barred Ukrainian court bailiffs as they tried to seize navigation equipment at a lighthouse in Khersones, on the outskirts of the Ukrainian Crimean port city of Sevastopol -- home to the Russian fleet for more than two centuries.

Russian television showed fleet servicemen in full combat gear with submachine guns at the ready forming a chain to guard the territory of the lighthouse. Bailiffs were shown being handed over to Ukraine's police by the Russians.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia's Black Sea fleet found itself based on territory belonging to independent Ukraine. Kiev has told Moscow it must abandon the base at Sevastopol when a 20-year lease expires in 2017, but Russia wants to extend the arrangement.

Thursday's incident highlighted the emotional nature of the Sevastopol dispute, part of broader tensions between the two countries that have led to interruption of gas supplies to Europe and harsh exchanges between their leaders.

"The command of the Black Sea Fleet warns that the responsibility for possible tragic consequences of such incidents will rest entirely with those organizing such provocations," the fleet said in a statement posted on the Russian Defense Ministry's Web site

It said only Russian laws were valid on the territory of Russian Black Sea Fleet facilities, despite it being in Ukraine.

Ukraine accused its neighbor of "twisting the facts," Interfax news agency reported, citing a source in Ukraine's Foreign Ministry.

"The incident...(reflects a wish) to blame the Ukrainian side for the escalation of conflict," the agency quoted him as saying. It gave no details of Ukraine's version of events.

Ukrainian officials could not be immediately reached for comment. Officials in Kiev had said earlier that despite the fact some facilities like lighthouses are under Russia's jurisdiction, Ukraine may claim its rights to them because they are deployed on lands that do not belong to Russia's military.

The issue of Sevastopol and Russia's Black Sea Fleet deployed there is a painful irritant in the icy relations between former imperial master Moscow and Kiev which has been seeking closer ties with the West and NATO membership.

In 1954 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave Russia's Crimean peninsula to Ukraine in a gesture of "brotherly love." The act had little beyond symbolic importance at the time as Russia and Ukraine formed part of the Soviet Union under Kremlin control.

Ukrainian refusal to accept any extension has angered Moscow and pro-Russian locals who see Sevastopol as the natural home of the Russian fleet.
(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Ralph Boulton)
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
AUR ARCHIVES, 2003-2009:


Window on Eurasia, By Paul Goble, Vienna, Thursday, August 27, 2009


VIENNA - In response to Moscow’s continuing efforts to exploit ethnic Russians living in Ukraine in order to put pressure on the Ukrainian government, Kyiv is seeking to mobilize ethnic Ukrainians in the Russian Federation and elsewhere to defend Ukraine from Russian attacks and to promote Ukrainian interests as well.


On Tuesday, Vera Ulyanchen’ko, the chief of President Viktor Yushchenko’s secretariat, hosted a meeting with representatives of Ukrainians living outside of Ukraine and senior Ukrainian official, including acting foreign minister Volodymyr Khandogy and two deputy chiefs of the Presidential Secretariat, Andrei Honcharuk and Valentina Rudenko.


Ulyanchen’ko told the group that the Ukrainian government is committed to “activating” relations between Kyiv and Ukrainians living in other countries in order to support both their efforts to “preserve and disseminate Ukrainian culture” where they live and to “support democracy in Ukraine” (


The secretariat chief said that “state support for Ukrainians abroad as a powerful political and spiritual force is one of the priorities of President Viktor Yushchenko,” as is shown, she continued, by his frequent calls for the parliament to provide full funding for programs directed “at the support of Ukrainians abroad.”


In his name, Ulyanchen’ko expressed the gratitude of the Ukrainian nation for “the active support by Ukrainians abroad of the president’s initiative for honoring the victims of the Terror Famine of 1932-33” and for their efforts to secure “international recognition of the Terror Famine as a genocide of the Ukrainian people.”



But Ulyanchen’ko devoted most of her time to what she said are the “fundamental threats of a political, economic and international character” now facing Ukraine during the run-up to the presidential elections.  These threats, she continued, include ones directed against “the existence of Ukraine itself and the existence of democracy in Ukraine.”


Discussing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent letter to President Yushchenko, Ulyanchen’ko said that the Russian letter had had the unintended consequence of “consolidating Ukrainians,” as was shown, she continued by “the activity and clarity of patriotic public actions during the celebrations of State Flag Day and Ukrainian Independence Day.”


Medvedev’s letter, she continued, was part of a continuing series of Russian statements and actions which highlighted Russia’s “imperial ambitions” and Moscow’s lack of respect for Ukraine and Ukrainians.  Indeed, she noted, Russian leaders, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have suggested that “Ukraine is supposedly a non-existent state.”



And she concluded her remarks by saying that the efforts of other government to influence “organization of Ukrainians abroad” against Ukraine were “impermissible,” an indication that such efforts may be taking place and that Kyiv is now worried about their consequences.


Tuesday’s meeting in Kyiv is intriguing for three reasons. 


[1] First, it suggests that Ukrainian officials are now prepared to push even harder than they have in the past to get governments around the world to declare that the Stalin-era famine in Ukraine was a genocide, an effort that parallels longstanding efforts by Armenians regarding 1915.


[3] Second, the meeting shows that Kyiv is now prepared to give Moscow a taste of its own medicine. Russia has regularly sought to use the dwindling number of ethnic Russians in Ukraine to put pressure on Kyiv. Now, Kyiv appears to be hoping that it will be able to use the more than six million ethnic Ukrainians in Russia, possibly leading Moscow to back off from its tactic.


[3] And third, such activism by the Ukrainian government may lead more Russians to conclude, as one in three now does, that there is no need “to lobby pro-Russian forces in Ukraine since there are no real pro-Russian forces there” now.


Such Russians believe, according to a survey by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), an agency known for its close ties to the Kremlin, that Moscow “must work with the government Ukrainians have chosen themselves” rather than trying to push forward “pro-Russian forces” (


[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
In 2008 I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Ukraine
Opinion Journal, By Claire St. Amant, The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Fri, Aug 21, 2009
TYSMENTSYA, Ukraine - After graduating from college in 2008, I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Ukraine. I'm not sure where I meet more people who know less about what exactly the Peace Corps is—here or back home.
In Ukraine, people I meet either think that I'm a secret agent (our language-training classes now include the phrase "I am not a spy") or that I was forced to come here, as if in some sort of mandatory military service. When I tell Ukrainians I actually chose this job, they are unconvinced. The idea that a college-educated, single female with no relatives in Eastern Europe would willingly give up two years of her life to teach English in the former Soviet Union is hard for them to fathom.

You might think that Americans would know more about the program, but they are familiar with the Peace Corps only nominally. For many, it conjures up memories of John F. Kennedy asking America's youth to put aside their selfish ways and serve global humanity, not to mention images of earnest college graduates helping to dig wells in Africa.
In fact, Africa is the default site of most Peace Corps iconography. Of course, the Peace Corps still operates there. But it has changed a great deal from the days of the New Frontier, even if its core mission remains the same: to provide skills where they were needed, to educate other cultures about America, and to educate Americans about other cultures.

Earlier this summer, President Barack Obama nominated Aaron Williams to be the corps' new director. Mr. Williams, who was a volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1967 to 1970, has been tasked with doubling the size of the corps from its current 7,876 volunteers by 2011. Mr. Obama's proposed $373.4 million budget is a $33.4 million increase from last year.

In 1965, when missionaries and soldiers were practically the only developing-world travelers, the Peace Corps was twice today's size. Other things have changed too. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the advent of the Internet have propelled the program in a new direction.

To learn more about the roots of the corps, I phoned Jim Sheahan, a Sierra Leone volunteer from 1961 to 1963 who now lives in Atlanta. "You're calling me from Ukraine?" he asked incredulously. "The Peace Corps sure has changed since I was there," he noted, recalling the isolation from the rest of the world that volunteers used to experience. Mr. Sheahan had to make an advance appointment at the post office to telephone anyone abroad. "The charges were horrendous," he said, particularly "on a Peace Corps salary."

While most people associate the corps with, say, Uganda, Ukraine is now home to the largest Peace Corps contingent. These days, in fact, Morocco, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala all host more volunteers than any sub-Saharan African country. As the industries of the corps have gradually expanded to include business development and information technology, so has the scope of countries served. After declaring independence in
1991, Ukraine was the first former Soviet republic to invite the corps into its country. Currently there are 247 members here, 17% of whom are older than 50. Instead of the stereotype of 20-somethings living in grass huts, volunteers are of all ages now. And Ron Tschetter, the director under the Bush administration, had his own ideas about how to encourage more applicants.
His recruiting plan targeted the 50-plus demographic through the AARP and retired teachers' associations with a goal to increase the proportion of older volunteers to 15% from 5%. While he didn't succeed in shifting numbers program-wide, many of my colleagues in Ukraine could be my grandparents; they include academics and former business executives.

Volunteers often live in apartments while teaching English or working in business development. But indoor plumbing does not make a developed country. In Ukraine, water supplies routinely break down and central heating is a rarity. Double-digit inflation, gas shortages and poisoned presidential candidates are just a sampling of the woes of this teenage democracy.
"This is not the end," my Ukrainian friend Svitlana reminds me while baking an elaborate meal for family and friends or planting rows of onions. Ukraine is definitely a work in progress. But things are improving in fits and starts.

In between hand-washing clothes and dishes and making meals from scratch, I teach fifth through 10th grade at the local school. While we have a computer lab that theoretically has Internet access, I spend most lessons without electricity. I teach new vocabulary through charades and practice spelling with Hangman tournaments. A great deal of my work is outside the classroom, talking with neighbors about American history over a cup of tea or helping friends gather potatoes from their kitchen gardens.

In the past, Peace Corps volunteers joined up to see the world and, of course, to do good. But today a significant portion of the American population has already been abroad by the time they have graduated from college, although rarely have they spent any time in the countries where the corps members work.
When Mr. Sheahan worked in the corps' public affairs division in 1963, he booked returned volunteers on the Johnny Carson "Tonight Show" to promote the experience. Recruitment today is mostly done online. Potential volunteers can learn facts and figures about countries and programs, as well as look at pictures, watch videos and read blogs from current volunteers.
I bookmarked the page in high school and would routinely check the site for new programs and the latest updates from the field. By the time I attended a recruiting event on my college campus, I had already started my online application.

Despite my longtime interest, I don't think I could have predicted what my life is like now. And now I'm sharing the experience with baby boomers. At a recent birthday party, we ate on the floor with pillows and a hodgepodge of plates and cups.
Volunteers enjoy celebrating together, but our housing requirements allot only two plates and two forks per person. The scene wouldn't seem that unusual for a recent college grad, but the birthday boy was turning 64. "I never imagined a birthday like this in my 60s," mused John Jensen, a former soldier, business owner and blackjack dealer. He seemed to be enjoying himself.
NOTE: Ms. St. Amant blogs at The contents of this article do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
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Poland, Ukraine and Baltic States under an "Information War" from Russia
Analysis & Commentary: By Halya Coynash, Kharkiv Human Right Protection Group (KHRPG)
Kharkiv, Ukraine, Monday, August 31, 2009

The seventieth anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 should be primarily a time of remembrance. Perhaps in some Western European countries it is.  Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States, are, however, finding themselves increasingly under an “information war” attack from the present regime in Russia.
This anniversary should also be a time of reflection, most especially on terrible and treacherous mistakes made including both the 1938 Munich Agreement and the 1939 non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.
With Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel arriving the day before the ceremonies of remembrance on 1 September, presumably for friendly talks and the increasingly aggressive tone taken by both Russian leaders about Ukraine, Poland and the “correct view of history”, reflection on those past mistakes seems urgently needed.

On 30 August in an interview to the TV Channel “Rossiya”, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claimed that the Parliamentary Assembly of the countries of Europe had said that Nazi Germany and the USSR bore equal responsibility for the Second World War. He stated that this was a “cynical lie”.
It is, but it was never made by either the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Both these assemblies have called for 23 August to be marked as a “Europe-wide Remembrance Day for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes”.
The OSCE Resolution states that “in the 20th century, European countries experienced two major totalitarian regimes, the Nazi and the Stalinist, which brought along genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity;” It was certainly something of a statement to choose the day the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact was signed as Remembrance Day, yet there remains no assertion that they were both equally responsible.

False allegations become no less false for being repeated, however if you can assume that nobody will ask uncomfortable questions, then repetition has its uses. On Russian television those assumptions have long been possible, and judging by other ominous remarks made by Medvedev in the interview, the aim is to ensure that children never even think to ask awkward questions.
Following Vladimir Putin’s lead, President Medvedev also addressed the issue of school history textbooks.  Saying that they had been written by different people with different capabilities and ideas, he concluded “this is bad since schoolchildren end up with their heads full of nonsense”.
He considers that order needs to be established “so that absolutely obvious things are interpreted in the same way in these textbooks. You can’t call black white. You can’t name, for instance, somebody defending themselves an aggressor”.
Presumably the people appointed by Medvedev in May to his new “Commission for Countering Historical Distortions which harm Russia’s Interests” were deemed to understand what is obvious. One of the members of the Commission, Natalya Narochnitskaya, has been extraordinarily active of late presenting a somewhat specific view of historical events. It has many features in common with Soviet historiography and cannot therefore be considered original, however non-standard it most definitely is.
Before quoting particular statements, it is worth noting that Ms Narochnitskaya echoes key points made in the "Concept plan for contemporary Russian history in the first half of the twentieth century", a guide for Russian history teachers.
This 2008 work, and another such guide in 2007, reflects a clear move in Russia towards whitewashing Stalin, minimizing information about repressions, and trying to justify such clear crimes as the Katyń massacre (  This move was hailed as “positive” by President Putin in June 2007.
The extracts here are from an interview (in Russian) at: In places the questions are also cited, since in my view they give some indication of the purpose of this text. A previous interview by the same warrior against historical distortion was published on the effectively government controlled “Rossiya” TV channel on 23 August.
Molotov and Ribbentrop also signed for their respective governments a secret protocol which divided Eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence. It was on the basis of that agreement that the Nazis invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and the Soviet Union occupied its “agreed share” on 17 September (and then the Baltic States in 1940) 
          "(Interviewer) But still, why is it specifically Poland that seems like the victim of the War, particularly of the deal between Hitler and Stalin?
          "Natalya Narochnytskaya [NN] Poland presents itself as an absolutely innocent victim. Supposedly if it hadn’t been for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Hitler wouldn’t have invaded Poland. Yet there are documents showing that on 1 March 1939 the date of the invasion of Poland had been fixed. And do you know what the Poles were doing during those six months? The Russophobe Minister of Foreign Affairs Jozef Beck was negotiating with Hitler to become his ally, offering assistance in invading Ukraine so that Poland could extend from sea to sea.'

          “As a result of the Second World War we gave the Poles a third of their present territory. So they could behave in a more restrained manner and not slander us”.
Who does she mean by “us” and who is slandering them? There is a clear and thoroughly distressing assumption that the Soviet Union under Stalin and Russia are one and the same, and that any criticism of the Pact is somehow “anti-Russian”.
          “In the middle of the 1970s the strategy of the West towards our country changed and there was a determined shift in the treatment of the Second World War. They began saying that Hitler’s main crime lay not in claims to territory and peoples, and not even in the race doctrine, but in the absence of American democracy, and since we also didn’t have Western democracy we were just as awful.”
          “The Munich Deal of 1938, signed by Chamberlain, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini, the division of Czechoslovakia is a disgrace for the West.   (Quite correct, however her bellowing is only for local consumption. Nobody in other countries is disputing that this was an act of betrayal - HC)
          "Later Hitler swiftly extended his success, and western states wanted to appease him only at the expense of the East. And literally on the eve of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the British were holding secret negotiations with Hitler and Goerring was supposed to fly to London to sign a separate agreement with Germany.
          "The diplomatic struggle of the last pre-war year revolved around the question of who Hitler would invade first. It was clear to everybody that war was inevitable and would be on two fronts. Everything had the smell of war. And we fruitlessly tried to reach a comprehensive agreement with the West against Hitler, understanding that we were being led by the nose, and at the last moment outwitted the West in that game!
          "Even former American Secretary of State Kissinger admits that the “measure of Stalin’s achievement can be deemed to have been a change in the timetable of the war, and of Hitler’s priorities”.  [I have omitted only one sentence regarding Kissinger’s view on the Machiavellian nature of the trick. No details about the allegations made are provided].
          “[Interviewer] If the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had not been signed, how would events have developed?
          "Hitler would have invaded us first and we were not at all ready for war. 
[Ms Narochnitskaya clearly considers it simply too “obvious” to explain how exactly Hitler could have done this. Presumably we are meant to assume that the invasion would have been with the full support of Poland whose territory is, after all, somewhat in the middle].
          “All the European part, all of Ukraine and Byelorussia would have been wrenched away from us, i.e. we would have had what happened in 1991, only with the total destruction of the state. And that would have been the end of our history. As for the territory which our forces went into after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, let’s look at what was Western Ukraine, which Warsaw calls “Eastern Poland”.
          "That was territory of the Russian Empire occupied by Josef Pilsudsky’s Poland during the Civil War. Except for a piece of Bukovyna which before the First World War was not Russian. Why is the carving up of Ukraine and Byelorussia by Pilsudsky not considered a crime, while the return of these territories to the historical borders of the Russian state, albeit of the communist regime, branded as a crime?
        “England wanted to turn Hitler to the East in order to make itself safe in the West. Not to mention its permanent desire to deprive us of the Baltic

          "Britain’s dream from the time of Peter the Great was to topple us from our position [as a great state]. Therefore the West was so delighted when the Soviet Union collapsed. Finally the hated Russian empire had collapsed. After all, the price paid by Gorbachev for totalitarianism was 300 years of Russian history.”

She says that the original classifying of “Trophy” Archives for 60 years has been extended for several decades.
          “It’s quite possible that material will be found there which undermines many accepted clichés and labels. For example, there might be material on secret negotiations between Hitler, the USA and Britain. Anything who can think of! And maybe they’ll show that they were all up to their ears. It’s no accident that there’s unanimity between the rivals – the USA and our country - that we have to hold fire”.

          “[Interviewer] Natalya Alexeevna, why do we so seldom recall the death of hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers in Polish captivity in the 1920s?

          "It’s completely unfair when they keep throwing Katyń at us, which Yeltsin apologized for by the way. Not to mention that the issue of Katyń has not
been studied fully. There were undoubtedly NKVD crimes, however the Nazi crime also left its trace.
          "And for some reason nobody blames Poland over the fact that in 1920 on the territory occupied by Pilsudsky around 100 thousand Red Army soldiers
ended up prisoners of war on the territory occupied by Pilsudsky. And those prisoners of war were simply starved to death. They were deliberately not given food and watched as they died. …
          "[Interviewer] That was in essence the prototype for the Nazi concentration camps?
          "Yes, yes. Poles don’t want to remember that, yet they constantly demand apologies from us. Well, apologize for the invasion of Moscow in 1612….
And what did you get up to on Ukrainian and Byelorussian territory after the First World War?
          "There, incidentally, the ancestors of present-day Ukrainian radical nationalists excelled. During the years of the Great Patriotic War SS men were
stunned by the atrocities of the Uniates – those same Bandera-people whom Yushchenko now glorifies. “
If the reader is not familiar with any of the “historical information” provided here, I would earnestly recommend that they look it up. There is, after all, plenty of material freely available. If, on the other hand, it all seems so crass and primitive as to be laughable, then I would respectfully suggest that this is anything but the case.
Children and teenagers will be growing up hearing nothing else, with school textbooks, the media and, of course, politicians bellowing about historical distortions while feeding an unknowing audience on an extremely specific diet of information and interpretation. . They will simply not know to ask questions. 
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
AUR ARCHIVES, 2003-2009:
Deep divisions over who was to blame for Second World War cast shadow over 70th anniversary meeting
By Shaun Walker in Moscow, The Independent, London, UK, Tue, 1 Sep 2009
MOSCOW - European leaders gather in the Polish city of Gdansk today to mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, amid an acrimonious row between Moscow and much of Europe over who started the conflict.

The heavily politicised spat has been escalating throughout the summer as central European countries have sought to portray the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact as a key precursor to the war. Russia has responded furiously, insisting that Joseph Stalin had nothing to do with the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, and has even blamed Poland for starting the war.
The spat will overshadow today's summit, attended by German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. All eyes will be on Mr Putin, who is making his first trip to Poland since 2005, and has in the past reacted aggressively to European criticism of Stalin's role in the war and Soviet atrocities.
He is expected to give a speech in Gdansk today, which will be watched closely by the rest of Europe. A foreign policy aide said that one of the main purposes of the trip would be to counter false theories about the start of the war.
The argument comes in the context of a concerted Russian effort to retain the entire war period as a glorious Soviet achievement. Earlier this year, the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, set up a body with the Orwellian title of the Commission to Prevent the Falsification of History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests, which could lead to prosecutions of people who seek to "rewrite history".
Liberal critics have ridiculed the commission, and say it sets a dangerous precedent which could pave the way for anyone attempting to shed light on some of the darker pages in Russia's history to be silenced.

As the war anniversary has approached, Moscow has ratcheted up the rhetoric. On Sunday, President Medvedev said in a television interview that it was a "complete lie" to say that Stalin bore any responsibility for the war. Natalia Narochnitskaya, a Kremlin-friendly historian and member of the new commission, accused Poland of trying to paint itself as an "innocent victim".
Actually, she claimed, for a full six months before the outbreak of war Poland was negotiating with Adolf Hitler to invade the Soviet Union. In Warsaw, such claims are denounced as outrageous lies.

On the eve of the Gdansk meeting, where Mr Putin will have talks with the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, the Russian Prime Minister appeared to strike a conciliatory tone, saying in an interview with a Polish newspaper that the Nazi-Soviet pact had been "immoral". He added, however, that the Soviet Union had been pushed into the agreement by the failure of Britain, France and other Western countries to form a united front against Hitler.

Mr Putin touched on another sore point in Russo-Polish relations, the Katyn Massacre of 1940, when the Soviets executed 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals and buried them in a forest in western Russia.
For years, Moscow blamed the massacre on the Nazis, and it was only with the fall of Communism that the truth came out. Mr Putin referred to the massacre as a "crime", though stopped short of satisfying a long-standing Polish demand and officially apologising for the atrocity.

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, said: "This is quite surprising, and actually more than we could have expected from Putin, especially in the context of the rhetoric about the Nazi-Soviet pact inside Russia."

Moscow's fury stems from what it sees as the glorification of Nazi-allied partisans and nationalist regiments in Ukraine and the Baltic States. With central and eastern Europe worried about Russia's efforts to maintain a "sphere of interest" in former Communist countries, interpretations of history become ever more important.

"What Russia has in common with Estonia, Poland, Ukraine and all the other post-Communist countries is that they are still trying to build a national identity," said Mr Lukyanov.

"History is extremely important. While in western Europe, countries have been able to discuss historical problems outside of politics, in eastern Europe there is a long history of mixing history and politics."
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Matthew Day in Warsaw, Scotsman, Edinburgh, Scotland, Tue, Sep 1, 2009

WARSAW - RUSSIAN prime minister Vladimir Putin yesterday condemned Moscow's 1939 treaty with Berlin that carved up Europe as "immoral" – and attacked Britain and France for their earlier pact with Hitler.

In an unusual step, Mr Putin yesterday wrote an open letter to the leading Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza aimed at placating long-standing Polish anger over the Soviet Union's "stab in the back".

The prime minister described the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which carved Poland up between Hitler and Stalin, as immoral, and said he had a "duty to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past in Polish-Russian relations".

"Without a doubt there are full grounds to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939. But after all, a year earlier France and England signed a well-known agreement with Hitler in Munich, destroying all hope for a joint front for the fight against fascism," Mr Putin wrote.

Nazi Germany started the war by invading Poland on 1 September, 1939, a few days after its foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop signed a mutual non-aggression treaty with his Soviet counterpart, Vyacheslav Molotov. Soviet troops invaded Poland 16 days later.

A leading Polish historian and member of the Polish government committee overseeing anniversary events dismissed Mr Putin's letter.

Echoing widespread Polish views, Andrzej Przewoznik said that the Russian prime minister was repeating communist propaganda, especially when he compared the 1940 murder of 22,000 Polish prisoners by Stalin's secret police in Russia's Katyn forest with the deaths, most due to illness, of Red Army prisoners taken by Poland in the 1919-20 Soviet-Polish war.

The Second World War remains a raw nerve in Poland and any perceived attempt to deflect guilt for crimes inflicted on it is seen as a contemptuous insult to its wartime suffering.

Poles now hope that Mr Putin will show remorse over the role of the Soviet Union in 1939, which occupied eastern Poland and subjected the population to a campaign of mass murder, terror and ethnic cleansing, in a speech he is due to make today at official ceremonies at Westerplatte, near the Polish city of Gdansk, where the first shots of the conflict were fired.

His letter comes after recent Russian claims that the Poles planned to join forces with Germany and invade the Soviet Union, and that Jozef Beck, Poland's foreign minister in 1939, was a German agent.

Many Poles regard Russia's accusations as an attempt to claim the moral high ground and absolve Russia of any guilt ahead of today's official events.
An influential Russian historian sparked anger in Poland when she argued that there was German involvement in the Katyn massacre.

Warsaw has come under intense domestic pressure to respond to Russia, even facing calls to withdraw Mr Putin's invitation to today's ceremonies.
Warsaw has usually refused to rise to what it regards as Russia's bait. "The government shouldn't react to media debates, even one as unwise and unfair as the one on Russian TV," said Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister.

"During the ceremonies at Westerplatte myself and President Kaczynski will present the Polish point of view, whether someone likes it or not. There will be no doubt who the victim was and who the perpetrator. This point of view doesn't have to be obligatory for everyone in the world but Poland has the right to its memory and no one will deprive us of it."

States throughout the region that were once part of the Soviet Union or in its sphere of influence frequently contradict the Russian version of history as they assert their own.  Many, especially the Baltic states, regard the Soviet Union as occupiers and equal in sin to Nazi Germany and emotions have become heated.

In a television interview on Sunday, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, dismissed attempts to equate Stalin with Hitler as "cynical lies", before launching an attack on Russia's neighbours. "We are seeing some astounding trends," he said. "Governments in the Baltic states and even Ukraine are now essentially pronouncing former Nazi accomplices to be their national heroes who fought for the liberation of their nations."
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