Members of Chicago's Ukrainian community protested outside that nation's consulate Wednesday afternoon to condemn the government's use of deadly force in clashes with its people.
As many as 25 people were reported to have been killed in a fiery protest in the Ukraine capital of Kiev in the most violent protest since demonstrations began last November. The violence broke out after months of mostly peaceful protests, which began when President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a European trade deal, and was the deadliest day since the Ukraine won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Chicago's demonstration, coordinated by The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America – Illinois Division, began at 12 p.m. outside the Consulate General of Ukraine at 10 East Huron Street.
"President Yanukovych is responsible for escalating the tension, for intentionally diverting attention from his planned violent attacks by pretending to conduct negotiations to gain time, for the brutality and violence, and the death and beatings of so many Ukrainian citizens," said the group's vice-president, Pavlo Bandriwsky.
Specifically, the UCCA-Illinois calls upon the government of the United States of America
- to immediately institute visa and financial sanctions against the officials in the Ukrainian government responsible for the violence perpetrated on February 18, 2014 and to take action as already authorized in Congressional resolutions;
- to ensure that the perpetrators of today's attacks on Ukrainians are held criminally responsible;
- to use its considerable international influence to convince international partners, in particular the countries of the European Union, to likewise implement sanctions against those responsible for the killings and human rights abuses;
- to immediately send a mission to monitor the developments in Ukraine, most importantly, the situation with human rights;
- and to protest Russia’s covert role in the violent provocations.
Ukrainian-American Oleh Sajewych feels the fear after his 68-year-old brother was among the protesters badly beaten Tuesday. Sajewych said his brother suffered fractures to his arm and needed multiple stitches on his scalp.
"Ukrainians don't want to be slaves of Russia again," Sajewych said.
The group of protesters proudly sang their national anthem Wednesday, and said protesting in Chicago is what they can do about the heartbreaking violence abroad.
On Wednesday afternoon, the president's office announced the Ukrainian government and opposition leaders agreed on a truce. The reported truce — which had not yet been independently confirmed — came after thousands of demonstrators armed with firebombs and rocks had massed in central Kiev.
Beyond Ukraine's borders Wednesday, President Barack Obama had condemned the bloodshed, warning that "there will be consequences," and EU ministers called an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday to mull possible sanctions against the forces behind the carnage.
A candlelight vigil was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. outside Chicago’s Water Tower.
A Facebook Event was created to share information about the demonstrations.