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Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko together with his wife Maryna Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk and Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko visit the Holodomor memorial in Kyiv to commemorate the victims of the famine in Ukraine in 1932-33. © Anastasia Vlasova
Anastasia Vlasova, Kyiv Post.
The great famine in Ukraine of 1932-33, which was engineered by Soviet Union Secretary General Joseph Stalin and leading members of the Communist Party in Moscow and Ukraine, was commemorated in Kyiv on Nov. 22.
People lay flowers and light candles on the Holodomor memorial in Kyiv on Nov. 22. © Anastasia Vlasova
Thousands of people paid their respects to the victims of the Holodomor, which is Ukrainian word for the great famine of 1932-33, as well as to the victims of other Ukrainian famines at the Museum of Famines near Pecherska Lavra. The Ukrainian government recognizes Nov. 22 as the official day of commemoration.
A woman cries near the memorial to the victims of the Holodomor in Ukraine in 1932-33. © Anastasia Vlasova
Volunteers attend a training session at the base of Ukrainian self-defense battalion “Azov” in the southern coastal town of Mariupol on Sept. 3, 2014. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters
Russia said Thursday that the U.S. would violate international agreements and destabilize the situation if it supplies weapons to Ukrainian forces fighting separatists in the country’s east. 1
A U.S. official suggested Wednesday that Washington should consider providing weapons to Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that sent a “very serious signal.”
“If there is a change of policy [of providing only non-lethal assistance to Ukraine], then we can speak of a serious destabilizing factor that can seriously impact the balance of forces in this region,” Lukashevich told a news conference.
Lukashevich was addressing reporters before a visit to Ukraine by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, who was due to arrive in Kiev on Thursday evening.
Lukashevich cautioned against “a major change in policy of the U.S. administration in regard to the conflict” in Ukraine.
“That would be a direct violation of agreements reached, including agreements reached with the participation of the United States,” he said.
Washington backs Kiev in its struggle against the pro-Russian separatists in two eastern regions of Ukraine and has imposed sanctions on Russia over its policies in the crisis.
Moscow supports the separatists but denies it is part of the armed conflict which the United Nations says has killed more than 4,300 people since mid-April.
- But isn’t this exactly what the Russians did? Don’t they know that the same rules apply to them? ↩
Nadiya Savchenko stands inside the defendant’s cage during his hearing in the Basmanny district court in Moscow on Nov. 7, 2014. © AFP PHOTO / KIRILL ZYKOV
Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was captured around June 17, 2014 by militants in eastern Ukraine. A video of her interrogation by these Kremlin-backed militants was published on June 20. On July 2 a Russian court remanded her in custody until Aug. 30. She is currently held in detention in Moscow with the latest court order extending her detention until February 2015.
- How can a Ukrainian military pilot be abducted to Russia after being taken prisoner by militants in Ukraine?
- Why have the investigators tried to prevent inclusion of testimony that proves her innocent of the main charges?
- How can they seriously suggest charging Savchenko with ‘illegally crossing the border’?
Savchenko asserts that she was taken by force across the border into Russia.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has claimed that she entered, pretending to be a refugee and was arrested after being stopped in a routine check.
The investigators have Recently Also threatened to charge her with ‘illegally crossing The border’.
The investigators claim that in June, as a member of the Aidar Battalion, Savchenko found out the whereabouts of a group of TV Rossiya journalists and other civilians outside Luhansk, and passed these to fighters who carried out a mortar attack which killed TV Rossiya employees Igor Kornelyuk and Anton Voloshin.
The investigators have fought hard to:
- have all Court hearings Held behind closed doors
- Prevent testimony Being added to The Case That Which proves Savchenko WAS nowhere near The Place Where The Two Russians Were killed
Nadiya Savchenko was elected to Ukraine’s parliament in October and has therefore resigned from the military. She WAS, however, A Ukrainian Officer When Taken Prisoner by The militants making Russia’s refusal to Release her Under The Minsk Agreement in Clear Breach of That Accord.
The renowned Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared Nadiya Savchenko A Political Prisoner.
A North Korean flag flutters on top of a tower at the propaganda village of Gijungdong in North Korea, in this picture taken near the truce village of Panmunjom on Nov. 12, 2014. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters.
A new governmental agreement drafted by Russia and North Korea will see Moscow hand over Koreans who have fled the totalitarian regime in their native country.
The deal comes at a time when Russia is strengthening ties with the isolationist leadership in Pyongyang, apparently to snub the United States, said Andrei Lankov, a leading Russian expert on Korea.
The agreement may yet prove to be a formality, experts said — but Russia has handed over escaped North Koreans before.
Russia has similar agreements with many countries and blocs, including Ukraine and the EU. But the North Korean deal stands out because the UN has explicitly advised against the forcible repatriation of North Koreans, who face jail and even execution for fleeing the motherland.
The agreement, available on the Russian government’s website, outlines expulsion rules and procedures for illegal immigrants from North Korea, whose leadership has been accused by the UN of crimes against humanity.
The same rules would apply to Russians illegally entering the far eastern state, though experts polled for this story could not recall a single such instance.
The draft is dated Sept. 2, but has so far flown under the media radar. The text says the deal is to be finalized by the Federal Migration Service, which did not return a request for comment sent Thursday. Nor did the government’s press office.
A Trickle of Refugees
Experts estimated in the mid-2000s that at least 10,000 North Koreans were arriving every year to work in Russia, which has a 19-kilometer border with their country.
That figure, however, only includes those who arrived in Russia legally. Most are working migrants employed in the logging and construction industries.
Illegal migrants from North Korea number several hundred: only a fraction of the estimated 300,000-strong community in China, their main destination, said Lyubov Tatarets of rights group Memorial.
Tatarets, based in the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, provides legal help to North Koreans educated enough to know how to request asylum — who she said number only a small proportion of the refugees.
“Most stay undercover and live here for years,” she said by telephone Thursday.
But the North Korean refugees arriving are increasingly better educated than commonly believed, and know to seek legal help, said Korea scholar Lankov, who teaches at Kookmin University in Seoul.
Russia has an agreement on illegal immigrants with North Korea, but it dates back to the 1950s, said Yelena Burtina of migrant rights group Civil Assistance.
Moscow appears to have no cohesive governmental policy on North Korean asylum seekers as yet, experts agreed. Migration authorities have expelled some and allowed others to stay, or at least safely leave for third countries, though no statistics are available.
In a fresh court case this week, Memorial succeeded in getting the decision overturned of the Federal Migration Service to deny asylum to a North Korean refugee, identified only as Kim, who has fled North Korea twice.
During the famine of 1997, Kim escaped to China, but later tried to move to Russia, fearing extradition, according to Memorial. However, he was relying on an old map that still depicted the Soviet Union instead of Russia, and so ended up at the border of Kazakhstan, which repatriated him. He was one of the few survivors of a mass breakout from a labor camp last year, and managed to get to Russia — where he was arrested and initially denied asylum.
Russian authorities may be afraid of granting asylum to North Korean refugees en masse in case word gets back to Pyongyang that it is doing so, Tatarets said.
A Milder Crime
Official Pyongyang has recently launched a crackdown on runaways, disgruntled that its supposedly loyal citizens are ready to bolt the country at the earliest opportunity, Lankov said.
The new draft agreement does not stipulate the immediate expulsion of illegal immigrants: That is only to be done at the request of the country hosting the immigrant. This means it may just be a technical document, experts said.
Penalties for fleeing North Korea are much softer than they used to be, Lankov said. While two decades ago, illegal emigration meant the firing squad, now it is more likely to be a moderate beating and up to a year in prison, unless the failed escapee publicly criticized the regime.
But extradition to North Korea was nevertheless decried by a special report of the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year.
“Extradition to North Korea is a crime, pure and simple,” said Burtina of Memorial.
Moscow and Pyongyang, geopolitical allies from Soviet times, have made moves to strengthen their alliance in recent months.
In May, Russia finally wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt. The following month, Pyongyang said it would loosen visa regulations for Russian investors and even allow them uncensored access to the Internet. And last month, the two countries sealed a $25 billion deal on modernizing 3,000 kilometers of North Korean railroads over the next 20 years.
The alliance is Russia’s indirect retribution for U.S. sanctions over Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in March and alleged meddling in the Ukrainian civil war, Lankov said.
“Moscow is showing the U.S. that it can create problems for it elsewhere in the world if pressure persists,” the expert said.
“It’s also a bit of an emotional reaction, backing a staunch anti-American David against Goliath,” Lankov said. “Though to be fair, Pyongyang is actually much more pragmatic than they think in Moscow.”