Some Ohio State students and professors are set to head to the streets of Columbus this weekend to protest the violence in Ukraine.
Protests are slated to take place this weekend in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo to raise awareness about violent protests occurring in Ukraine, said Christine Charyton, an OSU associate professor of neurology.
Anti-government protests in Ukraine reached their highest point of violence yet Tuesday as police clashed with Ukrainian protesters in Kiev. At least 25 people died Tuesday, including nine police officers, according to The New York Times.
Ukraine is a nation slightly smaller than the size of Texas and is bordered by Russia to the east and Poland and Romania, as well as other smaller countries, to the west. It has a population of about 44.6 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook.
President Viktor Yanukovych posted a statement on his presidential website Wednesday that announced a truce and the beginning of negotiations.
“President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych held a meeting with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Volodymyr Rybak and members of the Working Group on the Settlement of Political Crisis,” the statement read. “Following the meeting, the parties declared: 1. Truce, 2. Beginning of negotiations aimed at cessation of bloodshed and stabilization of the situation in the country for the sake of civil peace.”
Charyton is set to help lead one of the protests in Columbus this weekend.
“The main thing is to raise awareness because most people don’t even know where Ukraine is located,” Charyton said. Charyton’s father was a Ukrainian immigrant. She said Ukrainians are often a silent minority who want to educate people about what is going on in their nation.
Charyton said the protests in Columbus will be held by people who want to raise awareness to protect family members in Ukraine.
The protests in Ukraine began in November and are a product of East-West tensions, which have pitted those who relate more to Europe against those who are closer to Russia.
In November, Yanukovych decided not to sign agreements with the European Union that would have strengthened ties between Ukraine and the EU, which showed he preferred to have stronger ties to Russia.
Russia has a long history of influence over Ukraine, as Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. Many Ukrainians have a desire to move away from that legacy and make their nation more like those of Western Europe.
U.S. President Barack Obama made a statement Wednesday about the protests.
“We have been watching very carefully, and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters,” Obama said. “There will be consequences if people step over the line … And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”
Seamus Kelleher, a third-year in business who is planning to participate in this weekend’s Columbus protest, said the Ukrainian government does not have the same checks and balances as America’s government.
“It is a democratic system, but one that is full of corruption and backdoor deals,” Kelleher said. He recently had an internship with the Ukrainian parliament and said his grandparents immigrated to America from Ukraine, and he is also a member of the Ukrainian Society at OSU.
“It’s not something that can go unnoticed. The people are fighting for a democracy that supports their ideals,” said Yuliya Vanchosovych, a second-year in international studies who came to America from Ukraine when she was 8 years old.
“The only people who get arrested right now are protesters,” said Marianna Klochko, an associate professor of sociology at OSU-Marion and program adviser for the Ukrainian Society, who emigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine as a graduate student in 1998. She is slated to be one of the leaders of the protests in Columbus.
She said there have been no government investigations of the violence because nobody wants to go on record and get their hands dirty.
Klochko said some Ukrainian people expect America or the EU to step up and help them.
“Ukrainian people are really looking for actions, and they’re not seeing those. They’re seeing words,” Klochko said.
The protest in Columbus is set to take place Saturday in front of the John W. Bricker Federal Building, located at 200 N. High St., from noon to 2 p.m. The next day, protesters in Columbus plan to drive from St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church, located at 5858 Cleveland Ave., to the Ohio Statehouse, located at 1 Capitol Square, and from there to the corner of High Street and 15th Avenue adjacent to OSU’s campus, waving flags and protesting along the way, Charyton said.
Lesia Mural, a fourth-year in civil engineering and a member of the Ukrainian Society at OSU, said the protestors in the U.S. are sending their thoughts to those in the Ukraine.
“We might not be with you physically, but we are with you spiritually and we are standing outside in the cold with you,” Mural, whose grandparents came to the U.S. from Ukraine, said.