Second day of Ukraine protests brings calls for referendum
DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russia protesters rallied for a second day in Lenin Square here on Sunday, demanding a referendum on joining the Russian Federation and blasting Western influence on the region.
A week earlier, Ukraine's southern Crimea region voted to secede and to join Russia, igniting minor clashes between the two countries and Western sanctions against Moscow.
Thousands in the square waved Russian and regional flags. They demanded that ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych be returned to office, denounced the country's interim leaders as Nazis, and accused the West and the European Union of causing unrest.
“U.S. and EU out of the Ukraine,” read one sign. “They sponsor terrorism.”
“Why did the U.S. and the EU pay for the Maidan?” asked protester Vasili Michailak, referring to the uprising in Kiev's central square that prompted Yanukovych to flee to Russia.
“We don't want war, and we don't want fascists here,” said Michailak, 57. “The occupation taking place in Ukraine was paid for by the U.S. The people of eastern Ukraine don't want to be part of NATO.”
Although protesters hope to rejoin Russia — and to end Ukrainian independence that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union — others fear a Russian invasion.
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, expressed concern about Russia's military buildup on Ukraine's eastern border.
That Russian force “is very, very sizable and very, very ready,” Breedlove told an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund, a Washington-based think tank.
A February study by Ukraine's Democratic Initiatives Foundation found that 33.2 percent of Donetsk residents favor joining Russia, a sentiment second in size only to Crimea's.
One woman in the crowd said she moved to Donetsk two years ago to find a school with Russian language classes for her daughter. She refused to give her name, saying she fears persecution.
She echoed familiar themes, dismissing anti-Yanukovych forces as “paid … pseudo-patriots” and “Nazis.”
“I just feel like if we stayed under one big yellow-and-blue flag” — Ukraine's national banner — “we will continue to be second-class citizens … deprived of speaking Russian,” the 35-year-old advertising worker said.
“My love for Ukraine is supposed to be equated with my hatred of Russia. It shouldn't be like that.”
Svetlana Lemeanska, 44, wore an English-language sign on her back: “Stop Ukrainian Nazism.” A lecturer at Donetsk Technical University, she wants “to join Russia, but I don't see how. I don't want a war. Maybe if we could have a referendum, we would be closer.”
Protesters marched on the regional government building, chanting for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “save us and Yanukovych, protect us.”
They quickly moved to City Hall, where young men pulled down Ukraine's flag and hoisted Russian and Donetsk regional flags to cheers, whistles and chants of “Russia!”
An hour after they left, Russia's flag came down and Ukraine's fluttered overhead again.
Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ohio woman shot to death nearly 3 days before police find body in Neshannock home
- Steelers’ Wheaton embraces expanding role
- Panthers fall to Hawaii in game they were expected to win
- Tire comes off, hits oncoming car, kills 1 on Route 28
- Fleury denied 300th win as Penguins lose to Islanders in shootout
- 7 arrested in Latrobe-area drug dealing
- Pine-Richland tops defending champ Central Catholic to capture WPIAL title
- Crowds pack Downtown Pittsburgh to enjoy Light Up Night festivities
- Central Valley beats rival West Allegheny to win WPIAL Class AAA championship
- Emergency personnel battle fire at Whitehall apartment complex
- For 1 night on stage, embattled Cosby his old self