Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO, under the Budapest accords of 1994, the United States was one of several nations to promise Ukraine sovereignty and security in return for their nuclear weapons.
With President Barack Obama speaking at Central Connecticut State University this afternoon, roughly two dozen Ukrainian-Americans demonstrated, peacefully, to make certain President Obama keeps his promise.
“Now’s that time that we need to stand up for Ukraine as a country and we’re pleased with President Obama’s statements, but now that’s got to be backed up with actions,” said Alex Kuzma, of the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation.
Backed up, he says, monetarily rather than militarily.
“They need to freeze the assets of the oligarchs. They need to prevent Russian oligarchs from laundering their money through U.S. banks and west European banks,” he said.
Oligarchs are often defined as rich businessmen with a great deal of political influence. Of course, the bubble burst on February 22, when Ukraine’s Russian backed president Victor Yanukovich was overthrown. Ukrainians say Crimea had basically been bullied since seceding from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
“This was a broad based, widespread, popular uprising across the political spectrum against him and his corrupt policies, added Kuzma.
Russia wants Crimea back under its control, in part, because they are now essentially required to lease a port in the black sea town of Sevastopol to house part of its military fleet.
“The Ukrainian people, they’ve stood up for three months in the sub zero temperatures out there on the maiden, in Independence Square, demanding their freedom and demanding a change of regime and they got it. Now, it behooves us as Americans to support their democracy,” said Kuzma
Many of the 22,000 people of Ukrainian heritage living in Connecticut keep in touch with family there by Skype.
“It’s scary,” said Oksana Bereca, who has an aunt, uncle and cousin living near the unrest.
“Some days they can’t go to work because there’s just like so much action going on and shooting and all that. So, they took their daughter from school some days because it’s dangerous,” said Bereca.
Thursday morning, at 6 a.m., a Connecticut contingent of Ukrainians will board buses in Stamford and head to Washington, DC, where they will march from the White House to the Russian Consulate.