Area Ukranians outraged by Russia's move in Crimea

Posted: March 03, 2014

Russia's apparent seizure of Crimea stirred new outrage Saturday from Philadelphia-area descendants of the former Soviet republic, and spurred plans for a demonstration to protest what they call the "aggressive military provocation."

"Events have escalated to an emergency level," said Mary Kalyna of Mount Airy, an organizer with the local group Razom, United for Ukraine, which is cosponsoring a 2 p.m. Sunday rally on Independence Mall. Also expected to demonstrate with banners and flags are members of the Belarus, Georgian, Polish, and Russian communities of Philadelphia.

"Whether it is 6,000 or 15,000 troops, they are on Ukrainian sovereign territory, and the situation is really dangerous," said Kalyna. "The Ukrainian diaspora all over the world is demonstrating to show we will not accept this."

Their planned demonstration is the latest in a series of local protests to support Ukraine, where a political tug-of-war that began in November has produced deadly street riots, continuing unrest, and reports Saturday that soldiers in uniforms without insignia - but presumed to be Russians - have occupied parts of the country.

About one million people of Ukrainian descent live in the United States, 122,000 in Pennsylvania, and 74,000 in New Jersey, according to census figures. Of the 20 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of Ukrainian ancestry, 15 are in Pennsylvania.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine gained independence in 1991. In 1994, it agreed to cede its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a pledge by the United States to help secure its territorial integrity. Kalyna said President Obama needed to honor that pledge now.

By sending in U.S. troops?

"I would never say that. We don't want it to come to that," said Kalyna. "We want the pressure of the world to bear upon [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to get his troops out of there. 'No War in Ukraine' is our slogan. We have had enough bloodshed. . . . Russia has to understand that Ukraine is not part of Russia anymore, and just move on."


mmatza@phillynews.com

215-854-2541

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