​Court rules against university that targeted Christian group, saying they were ‘hard-pressed’ to find a more blatant example of ‘discrimination’

From my Alma mater, the University of Iowa.

The anti-Christian trends in the US are horrifying reminiscent of anti-Christian madness of the Bolsheviks. There has even been a rash of arsons against churches which go unreported.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday ruled against the University of Iowa calling its decision to deregister a Christian student group as one of the most obvious examples of discrimination that it has ever seen.

In a ruling issued on Friday, the court unanimously sided with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national faith-based group that organizes local chapters at colleges and universities around the country, putting on Bible studies and worship gatherings.

In 2018, the University of Iowa decided to deregister InterVarsity — along with other student religious groups on campus — over its commonsense practice of requiring leaders to agree with its statement of faith.

In targeting religious groups, the university cited its Human Rights Policy, which mandates that student groups not differentiate on the basis of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and a range of other categories — religion included.

Besides the school’s obvious trampling on students’ freedom of religion, lawyers for the Christian group argued that the school also enforced its policy discriminatorily. The 8th Circuit Court agreed.

In the ruling, the court told school administrators it was “hard-pressed to find a clearer example of viewpoint discrimination” than the actions they took against the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

https://www.theblaze.com/news/university-iowa-christian-group-discrimination

On Putin’s recent letter about Ukraine

KYIV. July 16 (Interfax-Ukraine) – The article of Russian President Vladimir Putin “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” is addressed not to Ukrainians, but to world leaders as a demonstration that the Russian Federation intends to maintain its control over Ukraine, Head of the Ukrainian Politics Foundation, historian, political analyst Kost Bondarenko has said.

“For the past six months Russia has been developing a new concept of stepping up its activities in relation to Ukraine. It is obvious that this article was not addressed to Ukrainians and the political elite of Ukraine, although it was duplicated in the Ukrainian language. It is addressed to world leaders to show its intention to maintain its control over Ukraine,” Bondarenko said at a roundtable talk entitled “Synergy of external, internal challenges for Ukraine. When is to expect turning point?” hosted by Interfax-Ukraine.

According to expert of Hardarika Strategic Consulting Corporation Kostiantyn Matviyenko, “Ukraine remains a strategic goal amid Russia’s weakening position in Asia.”

“Russia was ousted from the South Caucasus. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan poses a big problem for Russia in Central Asia, from where it will most likely also leave. Kazakhstan is rather severely restricting Russian influence on its territory. The Anschluss of Belarus is almost complete. Now Ukraine remains a strategic goal for Russia and this is a challenge for us,” Matviyenko said.

https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/press-conference/756182.html

***

Here Irina Farion argues that Russia’s implied aggression is a call to Ukraine to stand up and become a strong country (Ukrainian language)

Ukraine Inks Infrastructure Deal with China After Biden Snubs Zelensky for Putin

Remember when they said Trump was Putin’s puppet?

Ukraine Inks Infrastructure Deal with China After Biden Snubs Zelensky for Putin

Chinese government media outlets confirmed Sunday that Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce had recently signed a reportedly expansive deal to invest in nationwide infrastructure in Ukraine, following the latter’s decision not to co-sign a statement at the United Nations condemning China for committing genocide.

The Global Times and China Daily offered no details as to the new infrastructure deal between Kyiv and Beijing, reportedly signed June 30, just days after Ukraine’s surprise exit from the genocide statement. The outlets instead emphasized that the deals showed that the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky was willing to increase China’s influence in his country in the name of growing Ukraine’s economy. Ukraine has been a partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a global infrastructure debt trap program, since at least 2018, when China established a BRI “promotion center” in the country.

. . . .

The Zelensky administration’s abrupt shift in attitude towards Chinese investment follows the president’s condemnation of American counterpart Joe Biden last month for failing to impose sanctions on Russia’s Nordstream 2 fuel pipeline. When completed, the pipeline will grant Russia essentially unobstructed access to key European markets, icing out Ukrainian competition and making key American allies like Germany more dependent on Russian natural gas. Zelensky has asserted the pipeline is a national security threat to Ukraine — currently at war with Russian-backed separatists in its east and partially colonized by Russia in Crimea — and to the United States.

https://www.breitbart.com/asia/2021/07/05/ukraine-inks-infrastructure-deal-china-after-biden-snubs-zelensky-putin/

Ukraine Seeks to Become China’s ‘Bridge to Europe’ After Biden Gets Cozy with Putin

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered to help Ukraine become a “bridge to Europe” for China during a phone conversation with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Tuesday, the Kyiv Post reported Wednesday.

“Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed hope that Ukraine could become a ‘bridge to Europe’ for Chinese business,” Ukraine’s presidential office wrote in an official summary of the July 13 phone call.

“The heads of state discussed the importance of developing interpersonal contacts between our countries and agreed to conclude a visa-free agreement between Ukraine and China,” according to the press release.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2021/07/16/ukraine-seeks-become-chinas-bridge-europe-after-biden-gets-cozy-putin/

Law on land market in Ukraine comes into force

The agricultural land market launched as part of the land reform carried out by the government, begins to function on July 1. At the first stage of the reform, only citizens of Ukraine will be able to buy and sell land plots, one individual will be able to have no more than 100 hectares at their disposal.

The right to acquire agricultural land on January 1, 2024 will be received by legal entities created in accordance with the legislation of Ukraine, while the ultimate beneficiary of one or several legal entities will be able to consolidate through them in aggregate no more than 10,000 hectares.

https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/law-on-land-market-in-ukraine-comes-into-force.html

Facebook removes account of Ukrainian Canadian journalist following her post on Soviet crimes

On July 3, Ustia Stefanchuk, a Ukrainian blogger and journalist now living in Canada, wrote a post about the atrocities of the Soviet government in Lviv. Her post described how the Soviet authorities tortured her family. On July 5, Facebook deleted Ms. Stefanchuk’s account. She reported the news from a different account.

Facebook said that the violation of the social network’s standards was the reason for the move. Ms. Stefanchuk called it an example of the destruction of the national consciousness of Ukrainians.

A writer originally from Lviv who currently lives in Canada, Ms. Stefanchuk researches the life of the first wave of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada. She also searches for and writes about abandoned Ukrainian churches.

In her post for which the social network deleted her account, Ms. Stefanchuk wrote about the day the Soviet army retreated from Lviv under pressure from Germany. As they fled on July 3, 1941, Soviet troops killed thousands of Ukrainians, including those imprisoned as counter-revolutionary elements, Ms. Stefanchuk wrote, adding that they included intellectuals, teachers and students. She wrote that the Soviets shot people and threw grenades into the cells, and the advancing Germans then opened Lviv prisons and let residents recognize their relatives.

In a photo attached to the post, Ms. Stefanchuk explained that a young woman from Lviv, wearing an embroidered dress, was clearly horrified by her surroundings. She had just seen hundreds of half-decomposed corpses. Others from the city were in the midst of trying to find their relatives among the dead. She notes also that, due to a lack of time and fear of the oncoming German army, the Soviets piled dozens of dead bodies in prison cells.

“Another photo included with the post showed a girl in uniform in an NKVD prison after the escape. This is a well-known photo,” Ms. Stefanchuk wrote in Ukrainian. A Facebook user recognized her own mother in the picture and noted it in the comments.
The post received 1,000 likes, 120 comments and 424 shares.

“At some point, I received a message from a friend asking why he couldn’t see my page and post,” Ms. Stefanchuk said. “I was a little taken aback and went to see what was going on. First Facebook sent me a standard text about a 30-day ban because of this post, which violates, it turns out, community standards. After that, I received a notification that my account has been blocked without the right to renew it.”

Ms. Stefanchuk also received a letter by e-mail stating that the page had been permanently blocked. She said that she has been blocked before for similar posts about the history of Ukraine. However, the block was lifted the past two times as soon as she wrote to Facebook support staff. She said that they even apologized.

. . . .

“Most of all, [I am hurt and sad because] there is no influence on it, that Ukrainians are again everywhere censored and disenfranchised.”

. . . .

Meanwhile, Volodymyr Viatrovych, a national deputy in the Ukrainian parliament and an ex-chairman of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, clarified that thanks to Ms. Stefan­chuk’s letter and that the comment on her page was made by Lesia Rudavska Kolenska, it was possible to find out that the young Ukrainian woman in the photo was Maria Lys, who was 20 when the picture was taken, according to Mr. Viatrovych.

Ms. Lys was studying in Lviv to be an accountant before the Bolsheviks came in 1939. Under the Soviets, she studied typing and began working as a typist. On the morning of June 30, 1941, she learned that the Soviets had fled and, at the same time, that thousands of prisoners had been killed in prisons. Ms. Lys, along with others, tried to find among the dead relatives or friends who had previously been taken by the Soviets.

. . . .

Ms. Stefanchuk said she wrote her post to discuss taboo topics of Ukrainian history. She also wrote about the SS Galicia Division division, adding that the people of Lviv joined the German divisions because they believed that there could be nothing worse than the Soviet military. The following day her page was blocked.

https://www.ukrweekly.com/uwwp/facebook-removes-account-of-ukrainian-canadian-journalist-following-her-post-on-soviet-crimes/

June 29, 1941 – mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners by retreating Soviets

Eighty years ago, on June 29, 1941, thousands of Ukrainian nationalists were massacred in western Ukraine by the retreating Soviet army as the German Nazis were preparing to capture Lviv. The Soviets were putting into practice the scorched-earth policy of destroying anything of value to the advancing Nazis.

In Lutsk, a Russian prison director sent 1,500 prisoners, Ukrainian nationalists, into the courtyard when Germans began to approach the city and all were shot down with machine gun fire. Those who were only wounded were later killed with pistols and hand grenades.

At Dubno, 528 bodies were found, and in Lviv, over 3,000 Ukrainians were murdered by the Soviet secret police, known as the GPU. Photos included in the dispatch by the Associated Press from Berlin showed rows of corpses as relatives attempted to identify them.

A United Press correspondent with the German armies on the Soviet front reported on July 7 that together with other correspondents he saw in Lviv evidence of mass executions by the Soviets before the Soviet army withdrew from the city. German officers declared 100 corpses were found in one military prison, 250 in another and 65 in another.

In one prison, the correspondent’s writings and included photographs showed there were between 20 to 30 corpses, and at another prison there were unmistakable signs that a large number of corpses had been buried in the prison cellar.

Many of those who were shot were political prisoners whom the Soviets had rounded up during their occupation of western Ukraine in the autumn of 1939. Many of them were shot outright, including a considerable number of clergy, a fact which the Moscow anti-religious organ “Bezbozhnik” (Godless) itself reported then.

https://www.ukrweekly.com/uwwp/june-29-1941/

Can Zelensky’s Turn to Populism to Save Him in the Next Ukrainian Election?

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/can-zelenskys-turn-populism-save-him-next-ukrainian-election-188516

With forty-two percent of Ukrainians disappointed in Volodymyr Zelensky’s performance last year and sixty-seven percent believing the country is heading in the wrong direction, it is not surprising Ukraine’s president is turning to populism. Only twenty percent believed Zelensky’s presidency was better than his predecessor Petro Poroshenko, thirty percent thought he was worse while forty-one percent were of the opinion there was no difference between the two.

The traditional populist enemy in Ukraine has always been oligarchs. During election campaigns, all Ukraine’s political forces, ranging from left to right and irrespective of whether they are pro-Western or pro-Russian, promise to ‘deal with oligarchs.’

With one eye towards the next elections, Zelensky has launched a ‘de-oligarchization campaign’ with two enemies in his sights. The first is the pro-Russian Opposition Platform For Life Party who he sees as the main competitor to his own Servant of the People Party among Russian speakers in southeast Ukraine. The second is Poroshenko against whom he has a personal grudge and seeks to dampen support for the center-right European Solidarity Party that the former president heads.

. . . .

Zelensky’s ‘de-oligarchization’ is unclear about how oligarchs are to be defined and the names are restricted to a secret list of thirteen people who allegedly have inordinate influence in politics, the media, and over state officials. Zelensky seeks to remove the influence of these thirteen oligarchs over the media and political parties and deny them access to privatization of large facilities.

It is never explained how oligarchs would be forced to sell their media outlets. This would likely lead to protests in international organizations and human rights bodies about threats to media freedom in Ukraine. Similarly, with a huge shadow economy accounting for upwards of half of GDP and assets deposited overseas, Zelensky has not explained how the authorities intend to end the covert funding of political parties by big business. Big business after all provides financial donations to political parties in the US and Europe.

Indeed, it is perhaps not surprising Zelensky’s ‘de-oligarchization’ populism ignores Ukraine’s huge shadow economy as attempts to reduce its size would be unpopular among his base. Anti-establishment populists like Zelensky prefer to attack ‘elites’. The shadow economy contributes to widespread lower levels of corruption and widespread disrespect for the rule of law. Of the thirty million ‘economically active’ Ukrainians only 37 percent (10.9 million) pay taxes. 11.8 million Ukrainians who are able to work do not officially make any money; in other words, they work in the shadow economy where they earn unofficial salaries. Compounding this are high rates of tax avoidance in western Ukraine which does not see this as a contradiction in its claim to be the most patriotic region of the country. Tax avoidance is also high in the port city of Odesa and to a lesser degree in the capital city of Kyiv.

. . . .

Who stands to benefit from Zelenskyy’s election populism?

‘De-oligarchization’ will benefit oligarch Igor Kolomoysky who was instrumental in bringing Zelensky to power in 2019 and remains untouchable. Oligarchs close to Tymoshenko were also untouchable during her populist ‘de-oligarchization.’ Zelensky has never once in his two years in power criticized Kolomoysky even though the oligarch has opposed all of his reforms. Kolomoysky controls a quarter of Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People parliamentary faction which has blocked government reforms. Kolomoysky directly interferes in Ukrainian politics through his For the Future political party which came fourth with twelve percent of the vote in last year’s local elections.

Kolomoysky faces numerous lawsuits abroad but none at home where the Zelenskyy controlled prosecutor’s office has initiated no criminal cases. In August 2020, the FBI raided companies owned by Kolomoysky in Cleveland and Miami and seized properties in Kentucky and Texas. On March 5, 2021, the U.S. sanctioned Kolomoysky ‘due to his involvement in significant corruption.’

To ingratiate himself with President Joe Biden, Zelensky could follow through with Ukrainian sanctions against Kolomoysky, although this is unlikely. Ukrainian gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who the U.S. has been seeking to extradite since 2014 from Vienna on corruption charges, was sanctioned by Zelensky last week. President Biden told Zelensky after this month’s NATO summit that Ukraine has to clean up its corruption to be invited into a Membership Action Plan (MAP). Cleaning up President Zelensky’s inner circle would be a very good place to start Ukraine’s drive to enter a MAP as a stepping stone to joining NATO.

Ukrainians’ fear that ‘de-oligarchization’ will benefit Zelensky’s circle seems, therefore. to be true. Kolomoysky would certainly attempt to take over large companies which went bankrupt from populist high taxes and loss of markets. It is interesting to note the manganese ore sector, already controlled by Kolomoysky, faced a mere twenty-five percent tax rate since 2020 at which time iron ore taxes increased to fifty percent. Inexplicably, manganese ore escaped any tax increase in Zelenskyy’s populist tax hikes.

Zelenskyy’s populist ‘de-oligarchization’ has four fundamental problems. Firstly, it is poorly thought out because it is more geared to increasing the president’s popularity than undertaking any real change of the type long demanded by the U.S. in return for its support. Secondly, selectively targeting one of the key sectors of Ukraine’s economic growth and exports will only incentivize more companies to join the already large shadow economy. Thirdly, allowing Russia to take over Ukraine’s export markets would be unwise when nearly three quarters of Ukrainians believe their country is at war with Russia. Fourthly, Zelensky’s ‘de-oligarchization’ will benefit Kolomoysky at a time when he is sanctioned by the U.S. Fifthly, ‘de-oligarchization’ is impossible without reducing Ukraine’s huge shadow economy, reducing widespread tax avoidance among Ukrainian citizens and fighting deep levels of corruption in the judiciary.

Read more: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/can-zelenskys-turn-populism-save-him-next-ukrainian-election-188516

Happy (Belated) East German Uprising Day

The East German uprising of 1953 (German: Volksaufstand vom 17. Juni 1953 ) was an uprising that occurred in East Germany from 16 to 17 June 1953. It began with a strike action by construction workers in East Berlin on 16 June against work quotas during the Sovietization process in East Germany. Demonstrations in East Berlin turned into a widespread uprising against the Government of East Germany and the Socialist Unity Party the next day, involving over one million people in about 700 localities across the country.[1] Protests against declining living standards and unpopular Sovietization policies led to a wave of strikes and protests that were not easily brought under control and threatened to overthrow the East German government. The uprising in East Berlin was violently suppressed by tanks of the Soviet forces in Germany and the Kasernierte Volkspolizei, while demonstrations continued in over 500 towns and villages for several more days before dying out.

The 1953 uprising was celebrated in West Germany as a public holiday on 17 June until German reunification in 1990, after which it was replaced by German Unity Day, celebrated annually on 3 October.[2]

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As I understand, very few German newspapers acknowledge this event.

Russia’s aggressive rhetoric increasing since Biden-Putin summit

Russia demands cancellation of annual Sea Breeze 21 exercise in Black Sea https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2021/06/23/7298135/

Russian Defence Minister Shoygu blames Ukraine for tension ahead of NATO summit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27qsFIW9n0s

Russian navy fire warning shot at British naval vessel in the Black Sea https://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2021/06/23/7298176/; https://tass.ru/armiya-i-opk/11727447

Ukraine reacts: https://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2021/06/23/7298185/