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Ukrainian-Americans Meet in Hartford to Hear About Sen. Murphy’s Visit to Europe

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff  Writer

HARTFORD — About 300 Ukrainian-Americans packed their National Home in Hartford to hear U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) talk about his recent meeting with Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych.

The town hall meeting comes two weeks after the Dec. 10 candle light vigil in Hartford, a response to the melee after Ukraine riot police attacked thousands of demonstrators on Independence Square in Kiev. Organizers say the meeting was to “support Ukraine’s freedom and democracy” through a EuroMaidan.

Murphy, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee on European Affairs, detailed events that led up to his Dec. 15 meeting with Yanukovych and mentioned his visceral response when he saw about 500,000 people in Kiev’s Independence Square.

The gathering in the square, also known as maidan, attracted worldwide attention, including the United States. Murphy was among the U.S. delegation present at the Euromaidan.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Murphy to loud applause after he described his experience standing next to U.S. Sen. John McCain before the massive street protest. “Reports were that there were up to half a million people. They were spilling out in the alleyways and into the streets that connected to the Square … It was an incredible diverse crowd. There were young and old … much to the chagrin of the Ukraine government.”

Murphy said that the people came together in solidarity because Yanukovych suspended talks with the European Union. And the embattled president only agreed to meet with U.S. delegates after the crowd started chanting: “Thank you, U.S.A.”

The junior Senator, born and raised in Wethersfield, said that sometimes it’s necessary to “defend democracy” abroad. Murphy pledged to be an advocate for the Ukraine-American community, saying Europe is stronger if Ukraine aligns with the EU.

One audience member wanted to know about the details of Murphy’s meeting, especially since that high-level meeting Yanukovych on Dec. 17 signed a series of agreements with the Russian Federation government and its natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.

chris-murphy-ukraine

ukrainian-town-meeting-hartfordAccording to The Ukrainian Weekly, this recent agreement  “will bind Ukraine’s economy and politics to Russia and close the door to an Association Agreement with the EU for at least the next two years.” The key elements of the agreements include reduced price for Russian gas and a loan for $15 billion.

Murphy said he was assured that Ukraine’s agreement with Russia would be temporary.

“He promised us there would be no more violence on the Square. And he told us he not was going to align with Russia. He was only going to sign a temporary agreement with Russia … I hope he was telling the truth.”

On Thursday, Yanukovych criticized the U.S. government for “meddling” in Ukraine’s affairs. And since the initial pro-European protest on Dec. 1, a pro-Russia crowd has emerged and has competed for media attention.

In Hartford, the audience that packed the cavernous hall located at the Hartford-Wethersfield line, home to a strong Ukrainian enclave, periodically punctuated Murphy’s talk with applause. And most expressed concerns about their country’s turn to Russia.

If there was a pro-Russia crowd in Connecticut, it did not show up at Sunday’s meeting, or Yanukovych’s crowd remained silent. Most attendees asked whether the U.S. would do more to force an alignment with the EU.

Bishop Paul Chronycky asked whether the U.S. would impose sanctions or other tactics to sway Ukraine to the EU.

“It’s going to take more than the maidan to remove Yunkovych from office. “I think that’s the key issue,” Chronicky said as he explained the oligarchic influence on Ukraine’s government.

Murphy said that an impeachment process in Ukraine would be complicated. And he added that the U.S. would likely keep an eye on Ukraine’s 2015 election in which the people would decide Yanukovych’s fate.

Organizers call for sanctions against several individuals to send a powerful message to Yanukovych. He also asked that Ukrainian-Americans hold similar town-hall meetings across the state with other human rights activists.

“The maidan is the Ukraine’s Valley Forge,” said Myron Kolinsky, president of the Ukrainian-American Youth Association in Hartford, likening Kiev’s Independence Square to a Pennsylvania site of encampment for the Continental Army in the 1700s. “Those kids could be out there for months in the freezing cold.”

Organizers close with a rendition of  a song synonymous America’s Civil Rights Movement: We Shall Overcome. Ukrainian-Americans created the song after the violence on Independence Square on Dec. 10.

Click here for video.

 

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