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Consulate General of Ukraine
SUNDAY, February 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm, 10 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America – Illinois Division has called for a protest and vigil to honor those who were killed by government forces in this week’s deadly clashes with government units in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, with a death toll climbing toward 100 and leaving thousands wounded. There is outrage at the government’s deadly force against its own people, and worldwide condemnation of the brutality and violence.

A Chicago native is among the injured. Many in Chicago’s community know George Sajewych, a Chicagoan and long-time distinguished reporter for Voice of America, who was among many journalists injured during this week’s violence.  He is recovering in a Kyiv hospital.

A deal designed to end Ukraine’s long-running crisis was signed on February 21 by President Viktor Yanukovych and the three leaders of the political opposition, but the accord appeared to be a hard sell among the thousands of demonstrators who have sustained months of protest and violence, who demand the resignation of President Yanukovych now.  

The six point agreement calls for an immediate return to the 2004 constitution, which gives the parliament, not the president, the right to choose a prime minister and most of the cabinet, and calls for holding pre-term Presidential elections by December 2014. However, protestors do not agree with such a deal.

Instead of celebrating the agreement with the government, the people on the Maidan were mourning the dead activists. Just as the opposition leaders came on the stage to announce the pact, a coffin with the body of a shot activist was brought before the stage. The leaders knelt and prayed. The crowd mourned by lighting small torchlights as the coffin was carried through Maidan.

Body after body, the people on the Maidan are praying for the repose of Ukraine’s fallen heroes. Family after family, young parents watch as Maidan prays for the souls of each individual hero of Ukraine. The coffins keep coming.  The pain, the anguish, the losses are enormous. The night, which was supposed to be a victory night, turned into mourning and determination for further struggle.

The European Union has agreed to impose sanctions on Ukrainian officials “responsible for violence and excessive force”.

President Obama warned the Ukrainian military to stay out of the crisis. “We have been watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters… There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
In Washington, the State Department imposed a visa ban on 20 senior Ukrainian officials, whom it accused of playing a role in the government’s crackdown.
U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland,  and Co-Chairman Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey,  both senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,  issued a statement that included the following condemnation: “… This violence is the result of a regime which has repeatedly displayed contempt for its people, who want nothing more than to be afforded the dignity which is their right as citizens. We unequivocally deplore the renewal of violence in Kyiv. We stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their struggle for justice. The time has come to immediately impose personal sanctions, including visa bans, asset freezes and other measures, against the organizers and perpetrators of the violence and other egregious human rights abuses. …. The U.S. and EU should use the available tools at its disposal to contribute to a peaceful resolution of this crisis. The OSCE in particular should employ its resources and mechanisms to monitor and mitigate the serious human rights concerns.”

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin stated “Ukrainian government officials involved in violence – and the Russian oligarchs who are backing them – should face a freeze on their assets and a visa ban from the United States if they continue this bloodbath…. Tragically, what is happening today is instead a cynical attempt to hold power by Ukraine’s leadership and thinly veiled manipulation of the situation by Russian President Vladimir Putin.” (Full statement http://1.usa.gov/1fmWEzn)

In a statement from Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, he said, “I strongly condemn the Ukrainian authorities for instigating the horrific violence the world witnessed in Kyiv this week….”  (Full statement http://www.kirk.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1000).  

UCCA-Illinois calls upon the government of Ukraine to end the violence, and return to the people their inalienable human rights, including freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech, and to hold free and fair Presidential elections as soon as possible.
UCCA-Illinois underscores its complete solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and supports their brave struggle to protect their dignity, human rights, and democracy in Ukraine.

A protest and vigil will be held on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 1:30 PM in front of the Consulate General of Ukraine, 10 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL.

Media Contact:
Pavlo T. Bandriwsky, Vice President, UCCA-Illinois Division
Telephone: 773-848-6886
Email: pbandriwsky@gmail.com
Website: www.uccaillinois.org

About UCCA IL: Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) Illinois Division was established in 1974 to unite the Ukrainian community and represent its interests in Chicago and throughout the state while maintaining contact with its ancestral homeland. UCCA conducts initiatives that underscore and preserve the community’s Ukrainian traditions while fulfilling its American civic responsibilities and strengthening ties between the United States and Ukraine. It supports cultural, educational, and humanitarian activities that emphasize the Ukrainian American heritage and provide support for Ukraine’s newly developing democracy.