Panel Emphasizes Personal Relationship of Chicago and Sister City Kiev; Assembly Agrees that Western Support is Necessary for Ukraine
CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–March 4, 2014. On the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to deploy Russian troops inside Ukraine, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk today met with leaders from the Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian communities in Chicago to discuss the precarious situation, Russia’s involvement, and what the United States can do to support the people of Ukraine.
“I fear that Ukraine is on the edge of all-out war,” Sen. Kirk Said. “With more than 50,000 Ukrainian-American families here in Chicago, this is a personal issue for all of us.”
The meeting was hosted by representatives of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, which has called on the United States to support democratic reforms in Ukraine.
Saulius Kuprys, president of the Lithuanian American Council and a Chicago attorney, agreed that all Chicagoans of all nationalities should be concerned with Russia’s actions towards Ukraine.
Sen. Kirk remained supportive of the goal of keeping Ukraine sovereign and democratic, as well as their entry into the European Union.
“If Mr. Putin thinks that using the Russian military to reconstruct parts of the Soviet Union will work in the 21st century, he will face a very unpleasant surprise,” Sen. Kirk said.
Sen. Kirk noted that social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been very effective in organizing pro-democracy forces worldwide, and that technology would make the kind of Soviet-era repression on which that government relied nearly impossible.
Panelists noted that, should phone and internet go out, the Ukrainian people may not have a way to stay connected to one another and to loved ones abroad.
A younger panelist, Julian Hayda, who operates a youth organization called Project Maidan, noted that virtual private networks (VPNs) might be created to fill some of the void if communications in Ukraine were disrupted.
This notion echoed Sen. Kirk’s sentiments.
“VPNs and other technological advancements are vital tools for spreading democracy,” Sen. Kirk said.
One of the panelists, Vera Eliashevsky, emphasized that many have personal connections to the struggle in Ukraine.
“We have a journalist based here in Chicago who was hit by rubber bullets,” Eliashevsky said. “He is in the hospital in the Ukraine.”
“The United States should, whenever possible, stand with those who peacefully pursue freedom and democracy,” Sen. Kirk said.
Sen. Kirk noted that there are many things the United States can do to support Ukrainian freedom.
“Sen. John McCain and I have long been backing a bill —now a law—that would deny visas to those who are suppressing human rights in Russia,” Sen. Kirk noted. “The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act (Public Law 112-208) is one way to put pressure on those who are fighting the peaceful proponents of Ukrainian democracy.”
Sen. Kirk noted continued efforts to expand the Magnitsky Act to a global scale. Those efforts are still underway in the senate.
The panel agreed with the Senator that more needed to be done.
“We can do more, and we must do more,” Sen. Kirk said. “Russia should not run the table here, and the United States should fulfill its role as the world’s greatest hope for freedom and extend a hand to the peaceful people of Ukraine.”