Ukrainians in Houston Speak Out About Crimea

The situation in Ukraine is a fluid one and local Houstonians with ties to the country have followed right along with several days of protests over the weekend. Through a local Ukrainian organization, Iryna Petrovska Marchiano has helped set that response in motion uniting with dozens this weekend to protest Russia's incursion in the Crimean Peninsula. Families from Houston's Slavic community, which includes Ukrainians and Russians, participated in three demonstrations last week. It's something, says Marchiano, that shows the kind of unity expats here are looking for in their own countries.

"Regular people like you and me are afraid of their children being dragged into a needless war," Marchiano said. She stays in touch with relatives through social media and her analysis of the situation in Ukraine is that "people are trying to emphasize and feed the separatist tendencies of in [Ukrainian] society. Not uniting people around the fact they live in one country, " she said. Marchiano is the president of the Ukrainian American Cultural Club of Houston and through their website and Facebook page have rallied local Ukrainians for protests in front of the Consulate General of Russia.

But Marchiano, who was raised in western Ukraine and speaks fluent Russian says the situation in her homeland is geopolitics as usual. "Oil pipelines in Crimea and its access to the Black Sea. It's a very good geographical position, a position that no one would like to lose," she said.

Some in the international media, namely Jonathan Steele in the Guardian, thinks our media is blowing everything out of proportion and the U.S. is making a mistake to help realize NATO's ambition to grow.

Kerry's rush to punish Russia and Nato's decision to respond to Kiev's call by holding a meeting of member states' ambassadors in Brussels today were mistakes. Ukraine is not part of the alliance, so none of the obligations of common defence come into play. Nato should refrain from interfering in Ukraine by word or deed. The fact that it insists on getting engaged reveals the elephant in the room: underlying the crisis in Crimea and Russia's fierce resistance to potential changes is Nato's undisguised ambition to continue two decades of expansion into what used to be called "post-Soviet space", led by Bill Clinton and taken up by successive administrations in Washington. At the back of Pentagon minds, no doubt, is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava.

Those back in Ukraine share a mix of beliefs, some even thinking the U.S. and Russia are trying to stir up a civil war in the country. The man in this video says, "Ukraine has become a colony of the U.S. since 1991."

Secretary of State John Kerry made a stop in Kiev today and pledged $1 billion in aid (that still needs an okay from Congress ) while calling out Russia on its land grab and promising to spank them. But things are moving swiftly as the New York Times reports late Tuesday that some Ukranian troops on Crimea are pledging allegiance to Russia.

Here in Houston, the Ukrainian group doesn't have any plans for another protest yet, but will monitor the situation and make announcements on Facebook and website.

"At this point our goal is unity. Myself and a lot of Ukrainians would like to see unity, but a wise unity," Marchiano said.

"We were very grateful and pleasantly surprise to see so many Russian citizens show up [during Sunday's protests]," she said. "There are people in Russia with their eyes open and not agreeing with what the politics of Russia are saying."

Marchiano said part of the reason it's important for Ukrainians and Russians to voice their opinions about actions in Crimea here in Houston is because "there's greater risk to speaking out against government actions," back home.

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