On 1 October 2015 at the National Democratic Institute in Washington, USA, Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) President Eugene Czolij made a presentation as a panelist on the theme A Special Look at the Ukrainian Minority in Russia during the conference “Ukraine’s Quest for Mature Nation Statehood. Roundtable XVI: Ukraine and the National Minorities Question”.
The conference was sponsored by the American Foreign Policy Council, Center for US-Ukrainian Relations, International Republican Institute, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, National Democratic Institute, Polish Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation and Open World Leadership Center.
The UWC President highlighted that the situation of the Ukrainian minority in the Russian Federation is in stark contrast to the state of national minorities in Ukraine. As an example, he pointed out that during the 2013-14 school year, there were 1,275 schools in Ukraine with Russian as the language of instruction but not even one school in the Russian Federation with Ukrainian as the language of instruction. Eugene Czolij also reported on the liquidation by the Russian authorities in 2011-12 of the two most prominent Ukrainian NGOs, the Union of Ukrainians in Russia and the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians of Russia, to undermine any meaningful activities of the Ukrainian minority and to impede the preservation of the Ukrainian culture in the Russian Federation.
Eugene Czolij also emphasized the human rights abuses during the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russian forces, including the imposition of Russian citizenship and residency permits on Ukrainian citizens, severe restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, the takeover of private and Ukrainian state property, clampdowns on independent media outlets, persecution of occupation critics and harassment of religious and ethnic groups.
The UWC President drew particular attention to the contemporary Ukrainian political prisoners being imprisoned by Russian authorities, including Nadiya Savchenko, Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennady Afanasyev and Oleksy Chirniy.
“Freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental freedoms enshrined in international covenants signed and ratified by the Russian Federation. However, this freedom remains a declaration on paper only for Ukrainians being detained, tortured and persecuted in the Russian Federation for their belief in the right of Ukraine and its people to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” stated UWC President Eugene Czolij. “That is why the international community has an obligation to be the voice of the oppressed and to ensure that the Russian Federation does not continue to slide back into its Soviet authoritarian past.”
The Program Coordinator of the conference was Dr. Walter Zaryckyj, Chair of the UWC Scholarly Council.
In the photo from left: Eugene Czolij, Dr. Walter Zaryckyj and Father Leo Goldade.