"We brought down some Lenins in people's heads," says organizer Yuriy DidulaDays after Ukrainian forces retook the city of Kramatorsk on July 5, 2014, Yuriy Didula and two colleagues from western Ukraine piled into a car and drove building materials into the city.
"People in the east felt abandoned by the state," Didula said in a June 25 interview. The 25-year-old manages the Lviv Education Foundation's eastern Ukraine portfolio.
As a student at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Didula and his colleagues developed an exchange program that brought young people from eastern to western Ukraine for Christmas and Easter. Later, as part of Lviv Education Foundation, they organized a summer leadership camp for Kramatorsk youth. Having established long-lasting friendships with students in eastern Ukraine, Kramatorsk was a natural place to pitch in.
A few months ago, few would have predicted that Europe would renew its hard-hitting sectoral sanctions this week. None of this means that Ukraine is out of danger. On the economic side, most reformers are waiting to see if the government implements the legislation that Ukraine's parliament passed in March at the insistence of the IMF as part of the process of securing a $17 billion loan. Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko is in a pitched battle with Franklin Templeton on the issue of restructuring Ukraine's debt, with a moratorium on payments a likely result if the creditors continue to insist that they should be exempt from any penalty for lending to the corrupt government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
The Transatlantic Alliance is in Trouble"We lived next to Russia for 500 years—listen to what we have to say," Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said at the Bratislava Global Security Forum on June 20. He's right. The West needs to pay attention and achieve strategic clarity in Europe and beyond before it's too late.
There are no shortage of crises and challenges—ISIS, the refugee crisis involving state failure in North Africa, Syria and Iraq, the rise of China, and Greece's potential exit from the European Union to name a few—facing the United States and its allies, but Ukraine and Russia are among the key tests to the transatlantic relationship.
It may not seem like much right now, but the organizers of this initiative are sure that it is part of something much bigger. Germany promotes its culture abroad through the Goethe-Institut. China has the Confucius Institute. Now Ukraine has the Skovoroda Institute, a small, youth-driven organization named for the Ukrainian philosopher Hryhoryi Skovoroda. It strives to introduce foreigners to Ukrainian culture through the study of the language.
But that's what the West keeps saying to Vladimir Putin's Russia. The most recent example is United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond telling the BBC: "We've got to send a clear signal to Russia that we will not allow them to transgress our red lines. At the same time we have to recognize that the Russians do have a sense of being surrounded and under attack, and we don't want to make unnecessary provocations."
At a time when the Minsk II ceasefire agreement is a ceasefire in name only and the threat of Russian espionage, sabotage, and invasion loom on a daily basis, sacking the country's intelligence chief for political reasons is risky. Then again, this is not the first time there has been speculation about Nalyvaichenko's dismissal. However, in each case, Nalyvaichenko's performance in fighting Russian aggression had kept him in the job. The fact that he's reportedly been offered at least two government posts suggests that Poroshenko still needs Nalyvychenko. So don't write his political obituary yet.