Philadelphia’s Ukrainians protest government crackdown on demonstrators in Kiev
Waving Ukrainian flags and wearing the scarves of Kiev’s Dynamo fooball team, Ukrainians assembled Sunday in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to protest a violent crackdown by the government which took place Saturday on protesters in their native land.
“I’m terrified and scared. I can’t sleep,” said Yulia Kurka, whose family lives in Ukraine.
Kurka said that due to “informational isolation,” Americans learned of the crackdown before many Ukrainians did.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych recently suspended plans to sign an agreement integrating his nation into the European Union. In response, protesters filled the streets of the capital city of Kiev, including Maidan Square, outside the president’s office.
Early Saturday morning, police entered the square and without warning began beating protesters with batons, stun guns and tear gas, according to Kurka and media reports.
“The people, they want to be part of this European Union. The government doesn’t want to listen to the people,” Tom Nazar said.
Several protesters at Independence Square said they believe Ukraine was bowing to pressure from Russia, due to the close economic ties between the two countries.
“Russia would not survive without Ukraine, that’s why they don’t to lose Ukraine,” Oksana Strockyj, 51, said.
The U.S. State Department has condemned the use of violence by the Ukrainian government against protesters.
“We had our human rights breached, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech,” Marta Sydonyak said. “The students were not acting violently.”
Warning: The below video from Ukrainian television of protests contains images of violence.