Canadian and US military supervise training of the 72nd mechanized brigade. Photo courtesy of JMTG Ukraine
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense reported that during the week of May 17 – 23, twelve Ukrainian service members were were wounded in action on the eastern front. Throughout the week, Russian-terrorist forces opened fire 77 times including 19 times using heavy weapons on Ukrainian positions in the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors of the front.
Ukraine’s Joint Forces Operation headquarters reported that while returning fire, Ukrainian forces killed 10 and wounded at least 24 enemy troops in the last week.
2. Volodymyr Zelensky Takes the Oath of Office of the President of Ukraine
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky holds a bulava – a wooden mace that’s regarded as one of the symbols of being a president of Ukraine. Photo by Mykhailo Markiv
On May 20, the newly elected President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky was sworn in as Head of State. With his hand on the Constitution of Ukraine and Peresopnytske Gospel, Volodymyr Zelensky took the oath of office.
In his inauguration address President Zelensky spoke about Ukraine’s European path, expectation that Ukrainians from abroad would come back bringing their knowledge and values, about returning Donbas and Crimea, as well as about internal economic and healthcare issues. He also requested that Ukrainian MPs approve the law on removing parliamentary immunity, the law establishing criminal liability for illegal enrichment and Electoral Code and open-lists.
He called on the MPs to dismiss the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine, the Prosecutor General and the Minister of Defense, and urged the government to resign announcing the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament] of the eighth convocation.
When addressing the heads of foreign delegations at the welcoming reception on the occasion of assuming office President Zelensky said “I will try to do everything for the European family and the large world family to consider Ukraine not as an annoying distant relative who disappoints everyone, but as a reliable sister everyone will be proud of!”
Read here the inauguration speech by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky posted by the Administration of the President of Ukraine
On May 21, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada setting early parliamentary elections for July 21. The Decree took effect on May 23. The Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine’s Parliament] Chairman Andriy Parubiy stated that the decision to dissolve the parliament was illegal and would be appealed in the Constitutional Court.
On May 22, resigned Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.
The parliamentary election campaign started May 24. The head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Tetyana Slipachuk emphasized that the CEC had no authority to debate this decision of the president.
However, CEC will not be able to print ballots and prepare the electoral process within on time. “International bidding cannot be legally held within a two-month period and there may be appeals in the future,” Slipachuk added.
3. Overview of the Verkhovna Rada’s Vote on the New Laws and National Referendum on Peace Agreement with the Russian Federation and New Head of Zelensky’s Administration
The Verkhovna Rada – Ukrainian Parliament
During the May 22 session the Verkhovna Rada failed to gather enough votes to include into the agenda President Zelensky’s draft law on public procurement during the election process and draft law on the amendment to the electoral legislation, which provides for the introduction of a proportional electoral system and a reduction of the passage barrier to 3 percent [from the current 5 percent].
Zelensky’s new Head of Presidential Administration Andriy Bohdan who, reportedly, was a lawyer to well-known Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi stated on the 112 Ukraine television channel that the Ukrainian authorities were considering holding a referendum on the issue of concluding peace agreements with the Russian Federation. “Not only politicians but also people should speak,” he said. The Verkhovna Rada Chairman Andriy Parubiy warned the new president not to appease the Kremlin.
Interestingly, Adriy Bohdan served twice as a government commissioner on anticorruption policy at the time of Viktor Yanukovych presidency and, therefore, is subject to 14 August 2014 lustration bill, stated Tetiana Kozachenko, one of the co-authors of the bill. President’s team claim no foul play stating that since Head of Presidential Administration is not a civil servant position the law is not applicable.
4.Flag Raising Marks Day of Remembrance for Crimean Tatar people
The 2019 Crimean Tatar Deportation Commemoration Day ceremony at the Homeless Memorial Park in downtown Edmonton on Saturday May 18, 2019. Photo by Larry Wong/Postmedia
On May 18, Edmonton Journal covered the ceremony of raising of the flag of the Crimean Tatar People next to the Edmonton City Hall. The event was organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council. The event featured politicians who spoke about the history of what the Crimean Tatar people went through and the continuing violation of human rights in the Crimean Peninsula.
“Around the world, May 18 marks the 75th anniversary of the genocide of the Crimean Tartar people. In 1944 the Soviets forcibly exiled the Crimean Tartar people from Crimea to Central Asia under order of Joseph Stalin and they were not allowed to return for almost 50 years. Almost half of the Crimean Tartar people died within the first year,” wrote Nathan Martin in his article.
Martin then talks about Mustafa Dzhemilev, 75, the leader of the Crimean Tatar People and genocide survivor who was a political prisoner and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Read the full article here
Photo courtesy of Ukrinform
On May 18, the Honourable Chrystia, Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement dedicated to anniversary of deportation of Crimean Tatars honouring hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatar children, women and men who were forcibly deported from the Crimean peninsula by Soviet authorities in 1944.
“Canada remains deeply concerned by the dire human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula, which is under continued and illegal Russian occupation, as well as by the mistreatment of the Crimean Tatar people and the destruction of their historic sites. We continue to denounce Russia’s banning of the Mejlis, the self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars, and call for Russia to reverse this illegal and immoral decision,” reads the statement.
5.Ukrainian World Congress President Paul Grod on what Diaspora Expects from Zelensky
Paul Grod, President of the Ukrainian World Congress
On May 19, Kyiv Post released an article with highlights from Paul Grod, President of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), regarding the expectations from Volodymyr Zelensky. Grod was hoping that the new president would continue on Ukraine’s path toward Euro-Atlantic integration, have a clear position on Russia’s aggression, sanctions against Russia and attempts by European leaders to lift them. “I would ask President Zelensky to work together with the (Ukrainian) World Congress to establish an appropriate framework to encourage diaspora to come back, to work in government, in business, in humanitarian work,” said Grod, adding that dual citizenship is needed, due to the reality being that too few are ready to give up their primary citizenship, while having a desire to work in Ukraine.
Ukrainian World Cogress Delegates during the meeting with President Zelensky
On May 21, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky met with Ukrainian World Congress representatives and thanked the Congress and Ukrainians from all over the world for their activities. In return, UWC President Paul Grod stated that it was important to hear that “we are one people of 65 million and we are Ukrainians wherever we live,” referring to Zelensky’s inaugural speech.
6. Sociologists Issue New Rating of Ukrainian Parties Prior to Early Parliamentary Elections
More than 40 percent of Ukrainians who intend to vote in early parliamentary elections and have already decided on their choice will be supporting the Servant of the People party – leader of electoral sympathies, according to a face-to-face survey conducted by the Rating Sociological Group on May 16-21, 2019.
The first runner up is the Opposition Platform – For Life with some 10.5 percent followed by the “8.8 percent for the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko’s Solidarity, 7.3% for Batkivshchyna, 5.1% for Smeshko’s Strength and Honor party, 4.6% for Vakarchuk’s party, 3.3% for Liashko’s Radical Party, 3.2% for the Opposition Bloc. The rating of other parties is lower than 3%,” the report says.
According to sociologists, the Servant of the People party holds the lead in all macro-regions. The Opposition Platform – For Life and the Opposition Bloc have strong positions in the south-eastern regions. Other parties with a chance to win seats on parliament have good positions in the central and western part of the country.
7. Ukraine’s Health Minister Suprun Calls on the UN to Stop Tolerating Russia
Picture is a screenshot from Ulana Suprun’s video of the session posted on Facebook
In her speech at the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva Ukraine’s Minister of Health Dr. Ulana Suprun talked about healthcare reform in Ukraine, hardships associated with the current war waged by the Russian Federation, Russian troops in eastern Ukraine and Crimea and the consequences of allowing the imperialistic authoritarian states to act with impunity.
“I have been asked, how has Ukraine made this transformation a reality? One of the reasons behind our success is our team’s ability to say “no” to business as usual,” stated Dr. Suprun at the beginning of her speech.
She informed the delegates that after the Russian Federation started handing out Russian passports on Ukraine’s territory, which is already an act of aggression, it now requires “the presence of a Russian passport to receive healthcare” which is a human rights violation. “Everyone assembled in this room must find the will to say “no” to doing business as usual. The United Nations should not tolerate the presence of the Russian Federation on the Security Council until they decide to rejoin the international rules-based system, beginning with withdrawing their troops and command structures from occupied territories of Ukraine’s Donbas and Crimea and freeing all Ukrainian prisoners of war and political prisoners,” emphasized Dr. Suprun.
Read the full speech here. Watch the video of Dr. Suprun’s presentation here
8. Civil Society Representatives Issue Public Statement on the President Zelensky’s First Political Steps
On May 23 the members of 73 [as of May 24] civil society organizations have signed a signed a statement which was posted on Ukraine Crisis Media Center’s website, expressing their deep concern about the first executive decisions taken by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
“We strongly disagree with the President’s intention to appoint members of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s regime to key government positions, a move that contradicts the principles of lustration, as well as persons without relevant competencies and individuals sharing business interests with President Volodymyr Zelensky,” reads the statement. Further on they indicate a list of “red lines not to be crossed” in the areas of security and foreign policy, economy, national identity, media and information policy and government functions.
The civil society representatives warn of devastating consequences “should the President cross these red lines” highlighting that such actions will inevitably lead to political instability in our country and the deterioration of international relations.
9. The US Senate Proposes to Increase Security Assistance to Ukraine to $300 million
On May 23, the Embassy of Ukraine in the United States reported that that the US Senate Armed Forces Committee has approved a draft National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020 “which authorized the Pentagon to allocate $300 million to provide security assistance to Ukraine.” This is $50 million more than the current year’s appropriations. NDAA stipulates that $100 million should be directed solely at lethal types of weapons, as poste on the Embassy Facebook page.
“According to the document, it is proposed to expand the U.S assistance in strengthening the defense capability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by incorporating coastal defenses and anti-ship missiles,” reads the statement.
10. Ukraine to Sign Agreement on Joint Film Production with Canada
The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved the decision to sign an agreement on joint production of audiovisual works between Ukraine and Canada. “Both the Ukrainian and Canadian film industries are waiting for this event as it opens an extraordinary window of opportunity for the distribution of Ukrainian films in Canada, bright joint projects, investments, new joint victories on the world film arena,” stated Ukraine’s Culture Minister Yevhen Nyshchuk, as reported by the press service of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.