Diane Francis

  • This Time It Will Be Very, Very Different

    In 2014, a 16-year-old Ukrainian, nicknamed Maley, watched the Euromaidan Revolution and Russian invasion on television and contacted his local army recruitment office to sign up. His calls went unanswered, so he took a train from the Carpathians to the front, armed with his grandfather’s hunting rifle and a brass plate bought by his mother taped to his chest as protection. He joined a volunteer militia.

    “I went to save my country,” he told me in a 2015 interview from his bed in a Kyiv hospital. He was wounded after the army medic behind him stepped on a landmine and lost both her legs. “She wasn’t paying attention. I’m going back.”

    If it wasn’t for Ukrainian farm boys, nurses, veterans, and grandfathers, the Russians would have swallowed half of Ukraine. In fact, this was the plan. The stage for invasion had been set by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who consolidated his power, jailed opponents, rejected European Union membership, and gutted...

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  • Why Yegor Soboliev is Still Optimistic and Even Joyful about Ukraine’s Future

    The claw back of reforms in Ukraine is alarming, and the latest blow was the dismissal on December 7 of hardworking Yegor Soboliev as chairman of parliament’s anti-corruption committee.

    A former investigative journalist and Maidan activist turned politician, he has been at the forefront of reforms such as electronic asset declarations for state officials, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), and has singlehandedly impeded the passage of three hundred draft bills containing hidden corrupt practices.

    “Soboliev proved to be one of the most effective and sincere drivers of anti-corruption reform in the parliament, he protects the independence of NABU, opposes the appointment of a loyal auditor, and advocates for the establishment of the anti-corruption court,” said the Anti-Corruption Action Center after his dismissal.

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  • Why I’m Not Giving Up on Ukraine

    It’s hard to keep the faith in Ukraine, given the attempts to claw back reforms and repeated attacks against anticorruption activists.

    But a successful Pakistani-born businessman, Mohammad Zahoor, isn’t giving up on Ukraine. He owns The Kyiv Post, a twenty-year-old English language newspaper that crusades for democracy, the rule of law, free markets, and western integration.

    The Kyiv Post has a relatively small circulation, but punches above its weight as the source of news on Ukraine for embassies in Kyiv, chanceries around the world, and expats living and doing business there. Zahoor bought the newspaper in 2009 from its American founder and has lost money ever since. But that is okay.

    “I believe that everyone has a responsibility to do community service. This is corporate social responsibility,” he said. “My wife and I love this country despite...

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  • How the West Can Finally Get Moscow’s Attention

    In March 1980, former President Jimmy Carter announced sanctions against the Soviet Union and a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in protest against its invasion of Afghanistan.

    “We call for the moving of the Olympics or the delay of the Olympics for at least a year, until Soviet troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan, or the canceling of the games,” he said.

    Many nations did not join the boycott, and the games proceeded. Then in 1984, the Soviets retaliated against the Los Angeles Olympics.

    But it’s thirty-seven years later, and President Donald Trump is soft on Russia and certainly wouldn’t even consider a boycott against Moscow anytime soon.

    But Moscow has been on the march again, militarily and virtually. In 2014, under cover of the Sochi Olympics, Russia invaded another neighbor, Ukraine. One year later, it also damaged the world of sports and was exposed for widespread and illegal state-sanctioned doping practices by its athletes in every...

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  • It’s Never Too Late to Set the Record Straight

    On November 24, 1933, the Soviet Union threw a lavish dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for 1,500 in honor of President Franklin Roosevelt’s recognition of the Soviet Union. They feasted on fancy wines, caviar, and Boeuf Stroganoff, then later in the evening gave a standing ovation to the special guest of honor, Walter Duranty, The New York Times’ foreign correspondent in Moscow and 1932 Pulitzer Prize winner.

    Outside the ballroom, the Great Depression was devastating capitalism and the Soviet Union was devastating Ukraine by starving to death millions to bring them to heel.

    November in Canada is Holodomor Remembrance Month, designed to remember one of the greatest crimes against humanity in history, a premeditated genocide perpetrated by Josef Stalin to collectivize farms and destroy Ukrainian society. Up to ten million died. “Holodomor” means death by hunger in Ukrainian.

    But the man feted years ago in New York, Walter Duranty, knew about...

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  • Why Are Prestigious Institutions Sponsoring a Russian Propaganda Concert in Washington?

    In April 2015, Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa was to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. But the concert was abruptly canceled because she expressed, to her huge online following, hurtful anti-Ukrainian messages and support for pro-Russia separatists who had invaded and occupied eastern Ukraine.

    "As one of Canada's most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world's great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive," said Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson.

    I was a director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the time and fully supported the decision to cancel. She was paid, and has performed since in smaller venues in Canada.

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  • Groisman Tells Investors that Shakedowns and Harassment Will End

    Prime Minister Volodymyr Groisman welcomes the creation of an independent anticorruption court in Ukraine and says it will be operating in 2018.

    “The debate was whether this court should be independent or a chamber. This was a waste of time,” he said in an extensive interview in Toronto. “From day one, I was in support of an independent anticorruption court.”

    He said he has added the cost of the independent court to his budget for next year and has assurances from President Petro Poroshenko this will be a priority.

    A “holistic system” is needed to eradicate corruption which includes the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, the anticorruption court, along with other reforms.

    “We lost a lot of time and laws must be adopted to provide for judicial independence,” he said.

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  • Why Ukraine’s Next Revolution Won’t Be on the Streets

    Deposed President Viktor Yanukovych and the Kremlin continue to create mayhem inside Ukraine but have lost the hearts and minds of most Ukrainians, said security expert Andriy Levus.

    “Confiscation of assets in the Donbas finances the military war for Yanukovych and Russia, and it’s a cover for smuggling, but only for another year or so,” said Levus in an interview in Canada. Their information war, however, is insidious and longer term.

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  • How to Continue the Revolution of Dignity

    Ukraine’s halting but steady climb toward becoming a just and smart European nation will take a giant leap forward if major health care reforms are adopted this week.

    Health care is always a contentious issue in any country and one need only look at the United States as an example. But Ukraine’s corrupt, Soviet system is demonstrably inadequate; witness the fact that Ukrainian lifespans are eleven years shorter than they are in the rest of Europe.

    This Thursday, a transformative package of reforms will be voted on in the Verkhovna Rada. These have been months in the making and already demonstrated benefits.

    Acting Health Minister Dr. Ulana Suprun is confident that Ukraine’s lawmakers will adopt reforms now.

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  • The Only Thing Catalonia and Crimea Have in Common Is the Letter C

    A Bloomberg piece in October titled “Why Catalonia Will Fail Where Crimea Succeeded” by Russian writer Leonid Bershidsky is an example of moral equivalence run amok.

    He compares two completely unrelated events—referenda in Crimea and Catalonia—as though they bear any similarity, and as though they carry the same moral weight.

    “The Catalan situation draws comparisons with that in Crimea in 2014, and they are not as easy to dismiss as Catalan independence supporters might think,” he wrote.

    Yes they are.

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