January 20, 2014
Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian community worries about escalating violence in Kyiv
Members of Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian community say they’re disappointed that protests in their homeland’s capital city of Kyiv turned to mass violence this past weekend.
Violence between anti-government demonstrators and police erupted on Sunday night and carried into Monday after the passing of what protesters are calling an anti-protest law, which significantly increases fines and imposes jail terms.
Iryna Matsiuk, who moved to Canada from Ukraine in 2011 and lives in Saskatoon, is concerned for that country’s future as a democracy.
“Obviously we’re disappointed and sad that, unfortunately, the president, the cabinet ministers and the government took this action against protesters,” Matsiuk said, citing two months of peaceful protests with no government response.
“I’m concerned about the country and the future, and about the well-being of those who are taking active action.”
On Monday, hundreds of protesters — many wearing balaclavas — hurled rocks and stun grenades in Kyiv, while police responded with tear gas.
Though the protests initially targeted a decision by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to shelve a trade agreement with the European Union in order to instead build ties with Russia, Matsiuk said the focus of the demonstrations has shifted to the government’s anti-democratic measures.
“Right now, I call (the protests) not pro-European, but pro-Ukrainian,” she said.
Pavlo Marchak, who also moved to Canada in 2011, said he isn’t surprised by the violence.
“In general, I think it’s really dangerous to be there. But from another way, I’m happy because more and more people in Ukraine understand that they are the first power and they are the source of power,” he said.
“Of course I’m not happy to hear that there are so many violent situations out there, but I expected to have it because there is so much tension.”
Matsiuk and Marchak said while they hope the government and protesters can come to a peaceful resolution, they believe the situation will worsen before it improves.
– With files from The Canadian Press