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Ukrainian Community Members March Through Downtown Chicago Against Russian Invasion

Griffin Krueger | The PhoenixHundreds of members of Chicago’s Ukrainian community demonstrated downtown against the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Saturday.

Members of Chicago’s Ukrainian community and other demonstrators marched downtown to protest Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The protestors condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and called upon the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Alliance  (NATO) for further aid and support towards Ukraine. 

Hundreds joined the march, which began in Grant Park and continued throughout the Loop, stopping at several landmarks including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Bean, and Federal Plaza. 

Protestors chanted “hands off Ukraine” and “U.S.A support Ukraine” as they marched. Most carried Ukrainian flags or signs calling for an end to the war.

Sergii Vobets, who moved to Chicago from Ukraine 11 years ago, said he thinks the west hasn’t lived up to their obligations to Ukraine. Vobets said he was fearful about the consequences of Russia’s invasion as there was an attack sixty miles from his hometown in Ukraine and he is concerned for his parents safety.

“The US and NATO promised us help, if you promise something please follow through,” he said. 

“Who knows what Biden will say tomorrow.”

Griffin Krueger | The Phoenix The march began in Grant Park and continued throughout the Loop, stopping at several landmarks including the Art Institute of Chicago, The Bean, and Federal Plaza.

In a statement on Feb. 23, President Biden called the invasion “unprovoked and unjustified.” 

“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” Biden said. “The world will hold Russia accountable.”

The protests came after Russian troops invaded Ukraine Feb. 23, according to the Associated Press (AP). In a speech earlier that day, Russian President Vladamir Putin claimed the invasion was to protect civilians in Eastern Ukraine and demilitarize the country. He also cited Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. Claims by Russia that the Ukrainian government is committing genocide, as Putin has alleged, have been found verifiably false by the AP.

NATO is a political and military alliance of 30 member nations, including the United States, founded during the Cold War to, at the time, deter advances in Europe by the Soviet Union, according to their website. Today NATO’s primary objectives are “collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security.” 

Some protestors called for a no-fly zone to be imposed over Ukraine, others wanted more extensive sanctions to be placed upon Russia. Maxin Ryabchon, a native Ukrainian, explained he wants to see more support in the form of supply for the Ukrainian military.

Aidan Cahill | The Phoenix protestors condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and called upon the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Alliance for further aid and support towards Ukraine.

“The way I think the U.S. can best support is financially,” Ryabchon, who has lived in Chicago for 10-years, said. “Medicine for our troops and weaponry, we need weapons to fight. We want NATO to employ anti-rocket systems, we need something like that to protect our civil buildings from rockets.”

Ryabchon echoed Vobets, citing a 1994 agreement in which Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons. In return The United States, United Kingdom and Russia promised the territorial independence of Ukraine. Prior to the agreement, Ukraine was the world’s third largest nuclear power.

“There was an agreement and the US and NATO said they would support Ukraine,” he said. “Now in the war no one is doing anything.”

There was also international support for Ukraine at the demonstration. Marchers Anastasia Vikanova and Victor Donov carried signs which read “Russians against Invasion.”

“I don’t think any Russians want this, we consider Ukrainians our brothers and sisters,” Vikonova, a Russian-native who immigrated to the US in 2000, said. “No Russian thinks any territorial advantage is worth the livelihoods of Ukranians.”

Thousands of Russians have taken to the streets in major Russian cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow protesting the invasion, according to the AP. So far Russia has arrested over 6000 people in connection with the protests, according to Russian human rights monitoring group OVD-Info.  

“A lot of Russians saw this coming from the very beginning,” said Donov, who was born in Moscow and has lived in Chicago for five years . “The backlash Putin will face will be a good chance for us, I am sure Ukraine will prevail. I don’t care about territorial negotiations, I just hope Putin faces trial.”

Griffin Krueger | The Phoenix Members of Chicago’s Ukrainian community and other demonstrators marched downtown to protest Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Ray Ivosk carried a Lithuanian flag in support of Ukraine. Ivoski, who is originally from Lithuania, said Russian aggression in the region makes him worry about the safety of his relatives back home.

“In 1990 the Ukraine supported Lithuania when Russia occupied us, today we support them,” the 42 year-old said. 

Another demonstrator, Ana Saakashvili, brought the flag of Georgia — a country which borders Turkey and Russia— to the rally. Georgia was invaded in 2008 by Russia over two breakaway provinces in the country, killing 170 Georgian servicemen and 228 civilians, according to a European Union report

Saakashvili said the conflict in Ukraine brought back memories of her own experiences of a Russian invasion.

“It was Aug. 9, 2008 when we woke up to the sound of a Russian bomb that was exploding near our house,” Saakashivili, who has lived in Chicago for seven months, said. “We had only half an hour to pack everything and try to leave the city and go somewhere safe. And while we’re driving, we saw the buildings, apartment buildings that the bomb hit were burning, and people were wounded. This just brings so many unpleasant emotions, the ones that I thought were sealed and I’ve never had to visit before.” 

Saakashvili said she wanted to show the Ukrainians she supported them having gone through the exact same thing. 

Despite on-going warfare in his home country, Sherchuk remained hopeful. 

“I’m scared but I believe there is hope,” he said. “I believe in our armed forces and I believe we will continue to be a free sovereign nation.”

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