by ASKOLD S. LOZYNSKYJ
The Honorable Robert Menendez United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations via email
As you probably are aware, the situation in Ukraine has deteriorated gravely. Activists from the Euromaidan have been kidnapped, humiliated, stripped, beaten, tortured and at least five have been killed. There is increasingly more evidence of the complicity of President Viktor Yanukovych himself in these crimes. Yanukovych had refused initially to personally meet with the leadership of the opposition, relegating that duty to his National Security Secretary Andriy Kluyev who was responsible for the beatings on November 30. Today Yanukovych finally relented and met with the opposition. However, the negotiations are not being conducted in good faith, but merely to suggest that they are ongoing. Furthermore, there is more than some evidence to suggest that the Russian Federation and its President Vladimir Putin are involved as well.
Because of the graveness and peril both the Euromaidan activists and the Ukrainian American community are looking towards the United States for more than declaratory relief. Other than rhetoric little has come from Europe except some minimal investigation of money laundering in European bank accounts. In fact, German Chancellor Merkel has downplayed the imposition of targeted sanctions. Frankly speaking, the President of the United States has been missing. We have yet to hear a word from President Obama on this crisis. The Vice President has made telephone calls to President Yanukovych with mixed results. The Department of State through various spokespersons has voiced opprobrium but nothing tangible. Congress has passed a resolution of similar sentiment, but with a promise of substance. However, the transition from declaration to tangible targeted sanctions has been lacking or is proceeding exceedingly slowly.
The imposition of sanctions is very much a time sensitive matter. The longer we wait, the more irreversible damage will have been done. It’s important to stress that people are dying and disappearing every day. Those disappearing may very well be dying. The list of sanction targets should include President Viktor Yanukovych himself and his family, who comprise an integral part of his criminal financial network. While Viktor Yanukovych blames the atrocities on excesses or indiscretions of the Berkut forces, he is simply being disingenuous. The Berkut would not be using live ammunition without his knowledge and consent. The Ukrainian American community recognizes the fact that the names of the sanction targets will not be announced. In our view it would be sufficiently effective if the subject targets were advised privately that their visa status and finances were under scrutiny. Furthermore, they should be advised of possible criminal prosecution under international law and at an international venue. That may to some degree influence their future behavior.
Further, it is important that President Obama involve Ambassador Samantha Power and the United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations. An emergency session of the United Nations Security Council should be initiated by Ambassador Power. The time is ripe to consider sending UN Peacekeeping Forces to Ukraine. This would be a viable and welcome alternative to chaos and brutality. Naturally, Russia as a permanent member of the UN Security Council would try to block such an action under normal circumstances particularly in view of the nefarious role it has played since the subject of Ukraine’s European association first came up and even more so because of its apparent more recent complicity. Nevertheless the proposal should be introduced to test whether a more timid Russia on the eve of the Sochi Olympics would at the very least consider a conciliatory response so as to maintain at least the appearance of propriety.
These steps would go a long way towards defusing a volatile extremely dangerous situation with severe strategic repercussions not only for Ukraine but for many of the countries in the region. You, Senator, and the members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have to lead. The democratic people in Ukraine and neighboring young democracies which are much concerned with events in Ukraine are counting on you. We all look forward to your expeditious and substantive response. Please bear in mind that hesitancy or undue delay will probably cost lives.
Askold S. Lozynskyj
copy: The Honorable Bob Corker
The Honorable Chris Murphy
The Honorable John McCain