Cleveland's Ukrainian Community Shows Support For Kiev

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It appeared today that the violence in Ukraine seen in recent days may soon end, as opposition leaders and the government appeared to have agreed to end the fighting in Kiev. Ukraine’s parliament also agreed to cut presidential powers, and potentially free opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

The news came just as Ukrainian-Americans in a number of U.S. cities, including Cleveland, demonstrated their support for those protesting in Kiev.

A couple hundred protestors occupied the steps of Cleveland city hall today, the blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag waving in the crowd, from car windows, and even on City Hall’s own flag pole. Protesters chanted emotionally against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and what is seen as a brutal crackdown of protestors. Andriy Voyetskiy says Ukraine is like a warzone between East and West.

“The East would be the Putin representing it, and the West would be the European Union and the United States. What we have to pay attention to, is that the people of the Ukraine they made their choice,” Voyetskiy says. “We have to listen to what the people want. They want to join the European Union. They are more for West than they are for East.”

Some protestors feel that the most pressing issue for Ukraine now is not an East West split. Dozia Krislaty says it is not about that any more.

“It’s not, any more. It’s about democracy, it’s about being together. It has no matter if you are a Russian-speaking person, as you hear a lot of them do speak Russian, they speak Ukrainian. They’re Easterners, they’re Westerners,” Krislaty says. “They all want to be democratic and free.”

Irene Rennillo agrees that the issue for Kiev protestors is a fundamental one, and a generational one.

“These are the young people who have never had the hammer and sickle on their passports. These are their parents who have come out who said ‘if you beat our children, we will put pots and pans on our heads, and we will defend our children.’ Because they know now what freedom is, and we can’t go back to what it was before,” Rennillo says.

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