Vernon peace rally targets support for Ukraine
Anxiety is high among the North Okanagan Ukrainian-Canadians as their ancestral homeland teeters on the brink of conflict with Russia.
Russian troops took over the Crimean Peninsula earlier this week after protesters pushing for closer links to Europe forced president Viktor Yanukovych to flee. Most nations, including Canada, have condemned Russia’s actions.
“We’re all sick about it,” said Andrea Malysh, with the Ukrainian-Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who is organizing a peace rally in Vernon Saturday.
Malysh has been in contact with friends and family in Ukraine since the crisis began.
“You don’t know what he’s going to do and what he’s capable of,” she said of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ethnic Russians are predominant in the Crimea but Malysh says that’s a result of Joseph Stalin moving Russians into that region during his leadership.
When the Soviet Union fell and Ukraine gained its independence, the Crimea chose to remain part of the Ukraine.
Roman Chez, president of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress in Vernon, refutes claims that Russia needs to protect ethnic Russians in Crimea.
“The new Ukrainian government has never threatened the Russian people,” he said.
While concerned, Chez remains optimistic because most other nations have united behind Ukraine.
Canada has initiated sanctions against Russia and it’s uncertain if military force will be next.
“Canada will be a full supporter of what ever the world community does,” said Chez, adding that any military response to Russia must be led by the U.S.
That is also the view coming from Malysh.
“The U.S. needs to take a stand. At what point does the U.S. move in or does bloodshed have to happen first?” she said.
Beyond diplomatic and possible military pressure, financial implications may also force Russia to back down. The value of its stock market and currency has tumbled in recent days.
“Putin has an ego problem and it’s hard to know what he will do,” said Chez.
The Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress will rally in support of Ukraine in front of the Vernon Courthouse Saturday at 1 p.m.
“We are asking the Vernon and area community to join us,” said Malysh.