PITTSBURGH (AP) — As protesters die in the streets of Kiev, Ukrainians living in the United States and Canada are voicing anger and calling for a stronger response by the U.S. and the European Union.
In the Pittsburgh area, Ukrainian churches and social clubs are organizing memorials for those who died and wondering why more people don’t share their outrage.
“It’s disheartening for everybody, to see people struggling who want freedom,” said the Rev. Timothy Tomson, pastor of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks. Tomson said his cousin in Ukraine recently told him, “We want what you have – the freedom to complain, to throw bad politicians out of office.”
“As an American citizen, I’m very disappointed in my country,” Tomson said. “Our government is doing nothing, and the same with the EU.”
Nearly three months of anti-government protests have paralyzed Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. The opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych’s government are locked in a deep struggle over the identity of their nation of 46 million, which is divided in its loyalties between Russia and the West. Clashes that left at least 25 people dead Tuesday were the worst violence yet and raised fears of civil war.
The United States raised the prospect Wednesday of joining partners in Europe to impose sanctions against Ukraine, and the European Union called an extraordinary meeting of its 28 member countries on Thursday to address the situation.
Pavlo Bandrisky, vice president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America’s Illinois division, said the violence they all feared will only unite Ukrainians more.
Bandrisky said he is “very concerned, very worried” about what will happen next – including fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will send in troops to help quell the uprising.
Most people living in Ukraine, regardless of whether they personally feel more aligned with Europe or Russia, all want the same thing, he said: “They want to live like normal people.”
There are tens of thousands of Ukrainians in Chicago and its suburbs, and hundreds are expected to protest at the Ukrainian Consulate in Chicago on Wednesday. They also plan to hold a candlelight vigil in the Michigan Avenue shopping district Wednesday night.
James Bezan, a Canadian Parliament member of Ukrainian descent, said he is disgusted by what he sees as the callous behavior of Yanukovych and his regime, and is angered by the force used by government authorities. More than 1 million people of Ukrainian descent live in Canada.
A handful of anti-government protesters have taken shelter inside the Canadian Embassy in Kiev after riot police barged into a large opposition camp with stun grenades and water cannons.
George Honchar, of Carnegie, just outside Pittsburgh, said the local Ukrainian-American community is contacting congressional members and planning rallies to give people in Ukraine “the moral support that they are not alone.”
“We’re just asking for Ukrainians to have the same rights that we in America have – just basic human rights,” Honchar said.
The Rev. Ihor Hohosha, pastor of Pittsburgh’s St. George Ukrainian Church, said the U.S. and other countries have the power to end abuses by Yanukovych’s government.
The violence “can be ended in one day if the U.S. or Europe freezes” bank accounts, Hohosha said, adding that there’s a widespread perception that the U.S. and the EU aren’t willing to stand up to Russia in the standoff. Russia strongly supports Yanukovych’s government.
The people of Ukraine, he said, “cannot just be given as a sacrifice to Russia.”
Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.