On Independence Mall, a vigil for Ukraine

APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Yulia Kurka, with Basil Panczak, places a candle in memory of those killed in Kiev, during a vigil at Independence Mall.
APRIL SAUL / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Yulia Kurka, with Basil Panczak, places a candle in memory of those killed in Kiev, during a vigil at Independence Mall.
Posted: February 21, 2014

THE RAIN, ice and lingering snow yesterday did not stop Ulana Mazurkevich.

"We are here to show solidarity," Mazurkevich said.

With about 20 cohorts, Mazurkevich - president of the Ukrainian Human Rights Committee, a Philly-area group - held a candlelight vigil on Independence Mall in support of rebels in Kiev who have been defying the Ukrainian government.

They held signs: "Sanctions; No Going Back to the Gulag!" and "President Obama - Do Not Let Putin Dictate U.S. Foreign Policy."

On Tuesday, 26 people were reported killed and at least 400 injured during clashes in Kiev between protesters and armed forces of the Ukrainian government. That total included 16 protesters.

Yesterday's vigil in Philadelphia was held to mourn the dead protesters and to demand that the U.S. take action to resolve the brutal violence in Ukraine.

"Like Spartans, they [the protesters] did not leave the battle against the antidemocratic terrorist forces of President [Viktor] Yanukovych," said Osip Roshka, a radio personality at WWDB-AM 860.

"To Yanukovych there is just a warning: The young people in the West know what democracy means. And a civil war, if it arrives to that, would be disastrous to Ukraine."

Mazurkevich, of Elkins Park, said many fear that the police brutality was a ploy by Russian President Vladimir Putin to discourage democracy.

"We are afraid that Putin is making a foray into Ukraine to restore the Soviet Union, but Ukraine wants to remain independent," she said. "The demonstrators want the constitution to be changed; they want Parliament to represent their wishes."

Meanwhile, President Obama urged Ukraine yesterday to avoid violence against peaceful protesters or face consequences, as the United States considered joining European partners to impose sanctions aimed at ending deadly street clashes that are sparking fears of civil war.

Shortly after Obama's remarks, Yanukovych's office said he and opposition leaders had agreed on a truce, although the brief statement offered no details.

Early today, the European Union called a special meeting of its 28 member countries to address the Ukraine situation.

- The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

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