Michael Bociurkiw

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Images of fallen Ukrainian soldiers fill Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv on February 24, 2024, the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion. Pavlo Palamarchuk/Anadolu/Getty Images

Few places ooze the pain Ukrainians have been subjected to over the decades more than Lychakiv Cemetery in the western city of Lviv.

Among its rolling hills you’ll find the final resting places of many of the figures of Ukrainian independence – from renowned poet Ivan Franko, to composer Volodymyr Ivasiuk, whose mutilated body was found hung from a tree in 1979, a widely-believed victim of KGB brutality.

These days, Lychakiv has become the burial ground for hundreds of service men and women killed in the most recent wave of Russian aggression. The sense of pain is palpable. When I visited the cemetery a few weeks ago, howling winter winds competed with the heartbreaking sound of wailing mothers and wives mourning the loss of their loved ones.…  Seguir leyendo »

A priest blesses waters of the Black Sea during the Epiphany celebration in Odesa, on January 6, 2024. Scores of Ukrainians braced the icy waters as part of the Christian celebration. Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images

On January 6, scores of people in the Ukrainian coastal city of Odesa braved winter temperatures and jumped into the Black Sea as part of the Christian holiday Epiphany — commemorating the baptism of Christ.

This year’s icy plunge had added significance. It marked the first time that the war-torn nation celebrated the Christian feast day according to the Gregorian calendar (on January 6) rather than the Julian calendar (on January 19).

Last year, Ukraine passed legislation shifting its Christmas celebrations in line with many Western dates – a step to further distance itself from traditions commonly observed in Russia.

But for the past few weeks especially, it has been almost impossible to detach oneself from the looming presence of Russia, with heavy barrages of missiles and drones raining down on several Ukrainian cities, including Odesa.…  Seguir leyendo »

US President Joe Biden was the only leader of the permanent five members of the UN Security Council to attend the UN General Assembly in New York City on Tuesday. Mike Segar/Reuters

It was a speech that was vintage Joe Biden: oscillating between global statesman and messenger of doom and gloom if the world doesn’t wake up to the consequences of naked and senseless aggression.

But perhaps the real takeaway of President Biden’s address to the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday was that if the world allows the bad guys and dictators to decimate the rules-based international order, nothing else matters.

If Russia is able to get away with its aggression in Ukraine and if world leaders avert their gaze from what is happening and allow the rules-based order to crumble, we won’t be able to achieve progress on climate change, poverty alleviation or anything else.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend the summit in person, instead delivering his remarks via video-link. Michele Spatari/AFP/Getty Images

The BRICS bloc of emerging nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — this week more than doubled its membership, extending the welcome mat to cash-rich Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, outlier Iran, as well as Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia. The move breathes new life into a group set to rival the G7 and brings the world closer to multi-polarity.

Today’s summits rarely wind up with seismic accomplishments — especially ones with such relatively unwieldy and uninspiring titles as “BRICS and Africa: Fostering Collaborative Growth, Sustainable Progress and Comprehensive Multilateralism”.

But the relatively young and sidelined BRICS bloc — formed in 2009 and representing some 40% of the world’s population and a quarter of the global GDP — was able to overcome opposition among its five members and add significant muscle to potentially challenge much-maligned western forums.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s just past 3:00 a.m. About two hours ago, air raid sirens started to sound across the Odesa region, prompting me to leap out of bed and into my safe space — the windowless washroom in the rented flat of a 200-year-old building, which has survived all sorts of calamities over the centuries.

War forces you to seek out places that can outsmart Russian drones and missiles. My building is a low-rise, strong, obscure — it almost oozes strength and so it seems a reasonable alternative to a bomb shelter.

As an added layer of comfort, I’ve my trusty red sleeping bag from a Canadian mountaineering company.…  Seguir leyendo »

Those expecting that the upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive will be a shock and awe bombing campaign similar to the 2003 US strikes on Iraq will be disappointed.

To be sure, there is a sort of unspoken pressure on the administration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to press ahead with its planned counteroffensive as soon as possible – and demonstrate that the billions of dollars of Western military aid is capable of pushing Russian President Vladimir Putin at least back to pre-2022 full-scale invasion lines.

Ukrainian leaders and military planners need also to be mindful of developments across the Atlantic, where its most powerful ally, the United States, could see the return of Donald Trump in 2025 to the White House – and with that, a likely drop in support.…  Seguir leyendo »

An aerial view of Bakhmut, the epicenter of heavy battles with Russian troops in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on March 26, 2023. Libkos/AP

When the war in Ukraine finally comes to an end, the besieged city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine will go down as one of the most recognizable symbols of the conflict.

A place where happiness was brutally replaced with blood-drenched killing fields.

It will also be recorded in history as a battle that exposed more than anywhere the meat-grinder approach of Russian fighting. Where sending wave upon wave of fighters – including former convicts recruited by the Wagner mercenary group and Russian elite forces – became a military tactic to dislodge Ukrainian forces from the city.

For a prize of highly-questionable military value, the Kremlin, not known for valuing human life – even that of its own citizens – established a new threshold that tolerated the loss of several of its own combatants to every Ukrainian.…  Seguir leyendo »

An empty restaurant in Odesa, a port sea on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. Before the war, it was a popular holiday spot. Michael Bociurkiw

For over 125 years, one of Ukraine’s oldest wineries — Prince Trubetskoi — has occupied glorious grounds on the southern slopes of the Dnipro River. Its ancient chateau has survived the First and Second World Wars. Its internationally recognized wines have for decades attracted oenophiles and tourists alike

Then on February 24 last year, Russia’s full-scale invasion happened. As Russian forces moved into Ukraine to occupy the Kherson region, the winery ended up in the bullseye of the aggressors.

Over the next nine months, according to the owners, soldiers destroyed much of the property, even carting away a good portion of its priceless collection of 50,000 bottles, some dating back to the founding of the winery in the late 19th century.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sasha Dovzhyk's work on Ukraine is supported by the IWM project, Documenting Ukraine. Courtesy Sasha Dovzhyk

It’s the evening of February 23, 2022. In Kyiv, the boss of a news site relaxes with a bath and candles. In Zaporizhzhia, a young woman goes to bed planning to celebrate her husband’s birthday in the morning. In Moscow, a journalist happens to postpone his travel plans to Kyiv.

Within hours, their lives are dramatically and radically transformed. The next day, Russian President Vladimir Putin launches his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In the space of a year, the war has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions more. It has unleashed unfathomable atrocities, decimated cities, driven a global food and energy crisis and tested the resolve of western alliances.…  Seguir leyendo »

What a difference a year — and a war — makes.

Around this time last year — with Russia on the brink of launching its full-scale invasion — Ukrainians’ confidence in their president to handle the military threat massing on their doorstep was low.

Former comedian Volodymyr Zelensky’s popularity ratings were tanking as he battled allegations of unmet campaign promises to tackle endemic corruption.

At the time, one of the major complaints against Zelensky was that he’d let pledges to reform the judicial system slide — a delay that threatened to derail Ukraine’s aspirations of joining the European Union.

For Ukrainians, it was an emotive issue.…  Seguir leyendo »

Where Zelensky goes from here

Less than a year into his term as president of Ukraine, Volodomyr Zelensky’s skills as negotiator were put to the test in his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It was 2019. And the successful TV comedian turned commander in chief had traveled to Paris for a  summit to negotiate a peace deal with Putin. Despite the doubts of many, Zelensky managed to walk away giving few concessions.

Already, there were clues as to the type of leader who earlier this month was named TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

In Paris at the time, I witnessed how Zelensky pulled up to the Élysée Palace in a modest Renault, while Putin motored in with an ostentatious armored limousine.…  Seguir leyendo »

The site of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Donetsk, July 17, 2014. Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

On July 17, 2014, several weeks after “little green men” had started to occupy Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, I rushed into the management offices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, located in Kyiv, as word spread over social media that the unthinkable had happened.

A passenger plane – Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur had been shot down over the territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

As the OSCE’s spokesperson in Ukraine at the time, I quickly realized that because we were the only international entity with access to the area, we would soon be tasked with rushing to the crash site – and reporting to the world what was transpiring.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a grinding war such as the one in Ukraine, one learns how to read subtle changes in the public mood. So it was on Thursday -- one month since Russian forces invaded and just as NATO leaders pledged continued support to Ukraine -- that I spotted outside my apartment windows, on the edges of Lviv's old city, construction workers in high-visibility jackets and tall yellow ladders busily boarding up the neighboring church's magnificent stained glass windows.

It's a scene that's being replayed across this UNESCO world heritage city, from schools to shopfronts and government buildings.

It is also a clear sign that Ukrainians are digging in for the long haul.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Monday, as Ukraine was bracing for a possible Russian invasion and another punishing Covid-19 wave, President Volodymyr Zelensky held an event on digital transformation which resembled something out of Apple founder Steve Jobs' playbook.

Flashy graphics and cool suits framed a presentation which included a pledge to gift heavily discounted smartphones and a preferential tariff for the internet to every senior in Ukraine who is fully vaccinated.

The event might have been timed to distract attention away from the current crisis, or maybe quite simply as a follow-up on a Zelensky election pledge to transform Ukraine into a "country in a smartphone".…  Seguir leyendo »

As a series of high-level talks between the United States, European allies and Russia wind down this week, an uptick in Moscow's military muscle on its borders will remain a preoccupation of western diplomats long after they return to their duty stations

The roughly 100,000 Russian troops stationed near Ukraine constitutes the biggest security crisis in years for Europe and its allies, including the US. While in Kazakhstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin took this month's brutal crackdown from the regime's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as an opportunity to remind protesters revolutions will never be allowed to spread in the region and by deploying Moscow-led security alliance troops to help quell the unrest, the central Asian country remains firmly in his sphere of influence

The tone of Putin's rhetoric and the trajectory of military deployment leave little doubt over his intentions: to regain control over a wide swath of the former Soviet Union -- even to the point of rolling back the footprint of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Cold War years.…  Seguir leyendo »

As 2022 nears, the West is trying to figure out Russian President Vladimir Putin's next move on a complex geopolitical chessboard -- and preparing an "aggressive package" of sanctions, should he decide to make another land grab in Ukraine.

Tensions are now at their highest since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and dispatched "little green men" into Ukraine's Donbas region. An all-out land invasion of Ukraine is now a real possibility.
But let's face it. Putin could care less about the West's threats, sitting as he does in the enviable position of being able to call the shots.

Europe is in the grip of an energy crisis with low reserves.…  Seguir leyendo »

The strange and unpredictable world of geopolitics played out over the Pacific skies Friday as one commercial jet carrying the j ust-released daughter of one of China's most prominent tycoons flew westbound while another carrying two Canadians incarcerated in apparent retaliation for her arrest flew in the opposition direction.

The arrangement, in effect a modern-day version of a Cold War prisoner swap, brought an abrupt end to a saga that has severely poisoned relations between Canada and China, cast an unwelcome spotlight on one of China's trophy tech companies, Huawei, and complicated Beijing's public relations efforts to project a happy face with the Winter Olympics less than five months away.…  Seguir leyendo »

In an election few wanted and which ended up as the most expensive in Canadian history, Justin Trudeau, on Monday managed to return his party to the government benches in the House of Commons for the third consecutive time.

He failed to obtain a majority of seats -- forcing him once again to reach across the aisle to opposition parties in order to pass key legislation, and the costly exercise should raise questions about Trudeau's credibility, especially when the Covid-19 crisis remains far from over.

The Liberal Party leader never said he was gunning for a majority, but his opponents -- including his main opponent, Erin O'Toole of the Conservatives -- insisted a wasteful power grab was the objective.…  Seguir leyendo »

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians behind bars in China

In what Canadian officials have described as "arbitrary" decisions, Chinese courts this week have handed down a harsh sentence to Michael Spavor, accused of espionage, and upheld a death sentence for Robert Schellenberg, convicted of drug smuggling in the Asian country in 2018. The decisions come as the extradition trial of the Chinese tech giant Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is entering its final stages in a Vancouver courtroom.

Meng is wanted by the United States on multiple serious charges, including bank fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran by selling telecom equipment. She was arrested in late 2018. Meng and Huawei have denied the allegations.…  Seguir leyendo »

After forcing down a civilian airliner from European skies in May to detain a journalist who was on board, perhaps it was only a matter of time before "Europe's last dictator", Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, would be thrust back into the international spotlight and once again face fresh condemnation for his abhorrent actions.

The regime's trademark thuggery came into focus over the weekend when Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya defected at the Tokyo Olympics after being forcibly scheduled into a race by her country's coaches. Her public protests on social media apparently angered her team's officials and the athlete was ordered back to Minsk but refused to board the flight home, instead opting to request political asylum in a third country.…  Seguir leyendo »