The Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN) met to discuss measures that can be taken to challenge Russia’s occupation and militarization of Crimea, focus attention on widespread human rights violations on the annexed peninsula and, eventually, return Crimea to Ukrainian sovereignty.  The gathering, held on March 14th under Chatham House rules, was initiated by the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA and hosted by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. The Ukrainian perspective was presented by Ambassador Valeriy Chaly, as well as Mariya Ionova, a Member of Parliament who serves as the Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for European Integration, “Cyborgs” movie director Akhtem Seitablayev and former POW Volodymyr Zhemchugov. FOUN participants included Amb. Alexander Vershbow, Amb. John Herbst, Amb. Roman Popadiuk, Ian Brzezinski, Phillip Karber, Herman Pirchner, Orest Deychakiwsky, Nadia K. McConnell, Robert A. McConnell and Adrian Karmazyn.

In February, members of the FOUN National Security Task Force met with Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine’s Minister of Defense, at a gathering hosted by Amb. Valeriy Chaly at the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA. Participants included Stephen Blank (American Foreign Policy Council), Ian Brzezinski (Atlantic Council), Michael Carpenter (Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement), Gen. Wesley Clark (former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO), Don Jensen (Center for European Policy Analysis), Phillip Karber (Potomac Foundation), Nadia K. McConnell (U.S.-Ukraine Foundation) and Robert A. McConnell (McConnell and Associates).  Minister Poltorak thanked the representatives of FOUN for their support of Ukraine and their efforts aimed at improving Ukraine’s defense capabilities.

Members of the Friends of Ukraine Network meet with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak.

During his visit to Washington, the Ukrainian defense minister met with his American counterpart — U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis. In her readout from the meeting, Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White noted: “Secretary Mattis emphasized the value of the U.S.-Ukraine security partnership. He praised Minister Poltorak for his country’s sustained courage in the face of Russian aggression, and reiterated U.S. support for Ukrainian defense reform goals. He cited the Law on National Security as an urgent priority, and expressed his hope that the Presidential Administration and Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, take swift action and pass legislation that ensures a solid legal basis for the implementation of defense reforms in support of a secure and democratic Ukraine. The two leaders pledged to strengthen a lasting partnership between the U.S. and Ukraine built on common security interests and shared principles.”

The Friends of Ukraine Network is an initiative of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.

Photo at top of page:  The Friends of Ukraine Network meets to discuss responses to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. (Photos courtesy of the Embassy of Ukraine in the USA)

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