Local organization, Ukrainian Boston, reacts to crisis

After anti-government protests in Ukraine resulted in ousting President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine has been facing tension with Russian forces invading their country. Refusing to recognize that Yanukovych is no longer the official leader, President of Russia Vladimir Putin is responding to Yanukovych’s request for Russian aid, according to CNN.

Ilya Timtchenko, the leader of the local organization, Ukrainian Boston, said that Putin’s actions are not surprising to Ukrainians.

“Once Yanukovych fled,” Timtchenko said, “we had all these theories that Russia would be involved, and we suspected that Putin was behind the corrupt government in Ukraine.”

Putin has defended Russian presence in Ukraine by claiming it is protecting the large population of Russian speaking people. However, his intentions and how factual his statement is has been challenged by officials and locals.

“That is simply an untrue statement done by him,” Timtchenko said. “He is ignoring all the sovereignty rights that Ukraine has, and, internationally speaking, he has already crossed the line of many international legal issues that he was supposed to abide by.”

Timtchenko said that he has received reports that Russian speakers are not comfortable with Russian forces in Ukraine.

“What [Putin] is saying is that he is trying to help Russians within Crimea, which is nonsense. Even the Russian speaking population in Crimea is not for the Russian forces because they know that creates a huge potential for civil unrest. Putin has no reason for intervening in Ukrainian territory.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has already proposed economic sanctions against Russia if they continue to intervene. Both the United Nations and NATO are looking into the situation and called it a “breach of international law.”

The results of Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election by region. This map highlights the ethnic and political divisions within Ukraine, with “pro-Russian” candidate Yanukovych represented in blue, and opposition candidate Yulia Tymoshenko represented in yellow.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

“Although in the Boston community there is no concrete formula that we would want for NATO to be implemented within Ukraine, I would say that most people that I’ve talked to say that peaceful NATO intervention would be the best bet in the sense that NATO would be a mediator between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Also, NATO is a huge military power, and I don’t think Russia would want to fight against that.”

The U.S. is only making diplomatic decisions up to this point, a safe choice when taking into account responses to the current foreign forces in Ukraine.

“If we’re talking about U.S. troops, then I think they should stay out of Ukraine,” Timtchenko said. “If we’re talking about NATO troops, we do need them in our territory for protective services. What needs to be done now, and what the U.S. has been doing and hopefully it has been effective, is a lot of economic pressure.”

Ukrainian Boston will be having their seventh event to support Ukraine on March 5 in Harvard Square, where people are invited to join the rally and bring local awareness. Timtchenko, the leader of the rally, organized the event on that day because President Obama will be in the city.

“The main goals we are trying to accomplish is to get Obama’s attention and to remind him that this situation within Ukraine should be an international priority, and that depending on how it turns out, it’s going to have very strong consequences in the U.S. Our secondary mission would be to get locals attention and spread our message on what the U.S. should be involved in the what is going on in Ukraine.”

The U.S. has offered $1 billion in aid to Ukraine, ABC News reported, a symbol that they will stand by Ukraine if tensions between Russia increase.

“Right now in the Boston community we are trying to raise support,” Timtchenko said, “either for food, shelter, clothing, or medical needs, whatever they need, specifically in Kiev. We are trying to find finances for them as well. We are trying to raise local awareness and attract Obama’s attention.”

Timtchenko says that people he knows that are in Ukraine are “still living their normal lives of work and having their regular lifestyle, but the tension is influencing the environment and how aware people are of what is going on around them.”

CNN reported that Michael McFaul, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, advised Americans to keep an eye out for the Ukraine, as it is a delicate situation.

“I think we all need to be very vigilant and worry about the worst case scenario,” McFaul said, “because it’s no one’s interest … to see all out civil war in this country, in the heart of Europe, of 50 million people.”