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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine on the Brink, and the Adoption Business

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The current political events in Ukraine highlight not only the ineptitude of previous geopolitical decisions in the region, going back to World War I, and indeed even prior to that, but also the importance of getting things right this time around. I was reminded of just how critical this is to the well-being of Ukrainians during a visit to Moscow early last month, when I was surprised by the number of Ukrainians working in Moscow without legal rights equal to Russians, and was appalled by the enormous number of Ukrainian women working as prostitutes in and around the Russian capital.

The immense social dislocation of this people through the ages is something not well understood by non-European countries, especially the United States or my native Australia. However, looking on these events from afar it seems to me that a rift along linguistic and/or cultural lines is something that will ultimately be difficult to avoid. This has proven to be the case in the Balkans, where modern geopolitical boundaries did not reflect the social makeup of the population.

Ukraine's history has generally been one of subjugation to outside forces, either in the form of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Tatars, the Poles or the Soviets. The joy felt by nationalistic Ukrainians about their new country's autonomy is completely understandable, but this joy may be short-lived. However, one should seriously consider whether this is such a bad thing, assuming that any significant change to the status quo is achieved without violence. If eastern Ukrainians feel more connected to Moscow than their brothers and sisters in western Ukraine, then perhaps aligning Russian-speaking peoples with Russia is not a ridiculous thing to consider. It is clear by the number of dislocated Ukrainian women plying their trade in Moscow that the policies of contemporary Ukraine have failed them, and that now is the time to consider alternatives to the dysfunctional fallout of the Soviet collapse.

It should be remembered that not so long ago referenda conducted in all former Soviet republics prior to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. indicated an overwhelming preference among the people in each republic to retain the Soviet system with its strong, Moscow-centered leadership. Leaders from only three republics (Ukraine, Belarus and Russia) chose to ignore the wishes of their constituents, and abandoned the Soviet system. Since then, neither Belarus nor Ukraine has prospered, and Russia's fortunes have been largely looted by a select few who have deserted their motherland.

The current political standoff in Kiev provides an ideal opportunity to consider a more pragmatic solution to the region's troubles. In the haste of the Soviet demise, sensible geopolitical boundaries were not considered, leading to such ridiculous situations as the Russian Black Sea Fleet being based in Ukraine. As much as Western Europe and the United States may want a Ukraine that looks West, perhaps current events suggest that two presidents and two outcomes are possible.

Whatever the outcome, may peace rule the region above politics.

Bill Sullivan

In response to "Putin Can't Have It Both Ways," an editorial on Nov. 25.

Your editorial, as well as the rest of the newspaper, goes on and on about how the "West" is striving to support democracy in Ukraine. I wonder whether you are being naive, or are putting your own spin on things.

The West, whatever that means, supports plenty of dictators around the world when it suits its political, economic and military aims.

As far as the West is concerned (and here, I mean mostly the United States), the struggle in Ukraine is not about democracy, but about global dominance. Rather than become a small-time mercenary of the United States, Ukraine as well as the rest of the world will be a better place if it remains a partner with Russia. First, Ukraine would be able to retain its self-respect. Second, it would be a partner of a nation with which it has a shared history. Third, there will be less support for the United States' military adventures around the world.

Chatura Ranaweera
Cambridge, England

I am certainly not a fan of Viktor Yanukovych, but that doesn't make me a supporter of Viktor Yushchenko.

If we go a small step deeper into Yushchenko's democracy, we discover that his alliance relies among other things on anti-Semitic and extremely nationalistic sectors of Ukraine. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group has said that members of right-wing extremist organizations were already among the demonstrators for Yushchenko after the first ballot. Fighting for Yushchenko, these anti-Semites and ultranationalists understand themselves as successors of the Ukrainian national socialist collaborators who once organized mass pogroms under German occupation.

Yushchenko personally supported the influential newspaper Silski Visti after the newspaper, whose print run is 500,000, stated that Ukraine is governed by a small group of Jewish oligarchs who control Ukraine economically and politically. It also stated that the rest of the world is subject to a "Jewish check."

In January, Silski Visti was successfully sued because of its smear campaigns. But the "democrat" Yushchenko started a PR campaign in favor of Silski Visti with the help of his colleagues Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleksandr Moroz.

The fact that Yushchenko supports the anti-Semitic party UNA-UNSO is not really a secret. The fact that UNA-UNSO is considered militantly anti-Russian also shouldn't shock too much.

Is this the quality of democracy the Western world is fighting for? I hope The Moscow Times will stay away from supporting either side. The choice between the two Viktors is a question of bad or worse.

Wolfgang Heenen
Mainburg, Germany

In response to "Donetsk Fuels Fears of a Breakup," an article by Reuters on Nov. 29.

The article on Donetsk says: "In Kiev, Vasily Nadraga, a deputy from the Union party allied to Yanukovych, warned parliament the eastern half of the country could easily live without the western regions.

"'I, along with my fellow countrymen, have the right to live the way we believe is right,' he said. 'By the same token you, without our coal, metal, advanced technology and even without our grain, have the right to live as you wish with your sugar beets and fir trees.'"

This is a good example of how the corrupt elite are encouraging the breakup of the country. Nadraga might be right to say "our," but I certainly know he did not mean that of people of Donetsk, Luhansk or other Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine. By saying "our," he really meant the assets belonging to the likes of Viktor Yanukovych. We all know that as a deputy, he must also have significant ownership of the stolen property. And the last thing he wants is for the new administration in Kiev to take it away from him and give it back to the people.

And this is the fundamental reason for what is going on in Ukraine these days. Most of the country does not want a Russian version of capitalism, i.e. a dozen oligarchs having claims to one third of the GDP. Viktor Yushchenko, to his credit, has repeatedly stated that major privatization deals, like Kryvorizhstal, for example, would have to be reworked.

So please, do not buy into this nonsense about Russian-speaking Ukraine versus Western nationalists. It is about the criminal Leonid Kuchma regime fighting a dirty war against the rest of the country.

Vitali Datsenko

It's obvious by now that President Vladimir Putin, brilliant operator though he is, made an awful mistake in his bets on the outcome of the Ukrainian election.

His most puzzling miscalculation is with the candidates themselves. The Russian evaluation seems to be doubly wrong -- the Kuchma-Yanukovych duo is not pro-Russian, nor is Yushchenko anti-Russian. Both camps want Russia and the West to bid against each other, thus maximizing Kiev's leverage. Putin went for the bait way too easily, his only consolation being that the European Union and the United States did, too.

With regard to Russia there is almost zero difference between the two sides. Ukraine's options are severely limited, and its swing to Moscow is inevitable. It's only a matter of time and tempo. Why? Because unfortunately for Ukraine, the EU has all but ruled out Ukrainian membership. In the best-case scenario, Ukraine can hope to enter 10 years to 15 years after Turkey, whose membership itself is still two decades away. The world will be a very different place by the middle of this century. It's quite plausible that the EU won't survive for that long. Asia may become the apex of the world, if present trends continue.

Yushchenko's attempt at a Western thrust would only delay Ukraine receiving a full range of benefits from the common economic space and make an eventual turn toward Russia somewhat more awkward and humiliating, all the while prolonging Ukrainian misery along the way. That's all the inconvenience that Moscow would have to endure, and it shouldn't be too hard.

It's the same with NATO. Ukraine's industry is more militarized than Russia's and, since NATO would admit Ukraine but wouldn't procure Ukrainian weaponry, its economy would be dealt a crippling blow. If that wasn't enough, it would be obligated to buy Western arms it can ill afford. Therefore, NATO is out, too, all the hollow rhetoric notwithstanding.

I think that Russia is erring not out of malice, but because 15 years of nonstop geopolitical concessions combined with an almost total lack of reciprocity has made the Kremlin feel terribly insecure. That distorts Moscow's vision, as any self-victimization always does, and pushes it into ill-considered moves, such as the one in support of Yanukovych. Ukraine is the pure winner in it all. It can now name any price and Putin will have to pay it.

Russia should have relaxed and enjoyed the good show. Ukraine's future lies firmly in the East, and it should be of no relevance to Putin which presidential candidate comes knocking on his door. It's still not too late for Russia to distance itself.

Oleg Beliakovich

Orphans Deserve Better

In response to "Adoption by Foreigners Comes Under Fire," an article by Oksana Yablokova on Nov. 19.

When I read about Russian politicians questioning the corruption and huge sums of money paid to adoption agencies, I wonder whether they realize that the corruption and "sale of children to the highest bidder" is a result of the adoption bureaucracy that exists.

While Russian law defines a very clear, simple process for providing orphans with loving families, the bureaucracy that exists to carry out these laws has made the process complex. As a result, highly priced adoption agencies are the only way for honest, loving parents to navigate the system successfully.

I worked as a volunteer in a Russian orphanage this summer for six weeks, and I am now trying to adopt three of the children from the orphanage -- Lyosha, 14, Misha, 14, and Sergei, 8. I've tried for months now to navigate the Russian adoption bureaucracy without the assistance of an adoption agency. My first step was to contact the Education and Science Ministry in St. Petersburg to submit my paperwork. It seems simple, but for weeks my interpreters have tried to arrange a meeting without success. Meetings have been set up, then canceled at the last minute. Phone calls have been cut short by government officials simply hanging up. Now we are being told that the U.S. Embassy must send a letter of inquiry before a meeting can be scheduled. This wasn't mentioned during previous attempts to arrange a meeting.

So what alternative do prospective parents have? They can either pay tens of thousands of dollars to agencies to cut through the red tape, or they can simply leave these children in the orphanages.

If the Russian government truly wants to help the children in orphanages find loving families and eliminate the corruption that some people say exists, it could simply provide better assistance to foreigners attempting to adopt so we can avoid the great expenses involved in hiring agencies.

If the Russian politicians who are tired of the corruption want to change things, simply provide the necessary assistance and support through the process -- a clear list of required documents and helpful personnel who will do everything in their power to find homes for these children rather than erect unnecessary barriers. In return, adoptive parents could pay $10,000 (or some reasonable amount) to fund this assistance and to provide additional funds to all orphanages. As well as eliminating the need to hire agencies, it would allow the process to be freed of the corruption that comes along with the large sums of money being paid to adopt a child.

Jody Payne
Novi, Michigan

I am the adoptive mother of three Romanian daughters, so I can identify with your article. I do agree that it would be wonderful if all children were adopted by families in their own country. In the meantime, these children must be placed in loving families somewhere, because children cannot grow and develop normally unless they have love in a family. It's human nature.

I also have many friends who have adopted children from Russia and Romania, and believe me, they do know their heritage and will always love the country where they were born.

In the last paragraph of your story, you refer to Denise Kaye Thomas of Colorado, who was sentenced in 2000 to a year of unsupervised probation after being arrested for trying to sell her Russian daughter on the Internet.

I was actually the first person that this woman contacted when she realized that she could not raise the child. She realized the little girl had been sexually abused and had many problems that she as a mother could not handle. This happens in few adoptions, but it happens. It's called a disruption, and usually the child does much better with the second family than with the first. I offered to help the mother if she got a social worker or a lawyer involved. She had adopted through a private lawyer in Russia and not an agency, so she really had no agency to give her support. This is one of the main jobs of an adoption agency. I knew of a wonderful family who would adopt this little girl and give her the love and therapy she needed. The parents contacted each other, and a lawyer was involved. But the mother asked for money, as she wanted to pay off some of her costs from the adoption from Russia and travel. I told her, as others did, that this was not right, and possibly illegal. (I'm not a lawyer, just a mom.) The mother asked for $4,000, and not $15,000, as stated in your article. The little girl didn't go to the family that had originally offered to readopt her, but to a family in Colorado. She was adopted right away and she is doing fine today.

In the United States, most agencies charge $4,000 to $5,000 for an adoption. The country fees are $15,000 to $25,000, but that is given to the Russians. U.S. agencies have no control over what a Russian facilitator will charge. I am hopeful that some of this money will go to help remaining children in orphanages and not into the pockets of just a few. I do believe that this does happen, though.

Dede Van Zandt
Winston-Salem, North Carolina