Ukraine’s interim prime minister is on a whirlwind tour of Washington, D.C., and New York for talks with President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in an attempt to raise loan guarantees that would bolster a collapsing economy.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk is making the rounds on Capitol Hill, where he will find the support of U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) . Maloney was slated to hold a noon press conference Saturday at Roosevelt Island’s FDR Four Freedoms Park to address the ongoing crisis in Ukraine on the eve of Sunday’s referendum that could decide Crimea’s future.
Maloney met with members of the city’s Ukrainian community, including some Queens residents, Saturday to discuss the American efforts to support the fledgling government of Ukraine in its crisis with Russia.
At the session in the Manhattan offices of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, at 203 Second Ave., Maloney called on the U.S. Senate to pass a $1 billion loan guarantee that was authorized by Congress last Friday.
“Ukraine’s new government and its people know that the U.S. and its leaders support their right to determine the future of their nation — one that is free of corruption, waste and illegal intervention,” Maloney said.
She said the government needs emergency aid because billions of dollars were moved to offshore accounts and Russia is threatening to shut off deliveries of natural gas if state-owned Gazprom is not paid the nearly $2 billion Ukraine owes.
Astoria’s Adrian Dlaboha, the UCCA’s external affairs officer, said, “Any help that would build basic economic infrastructure is wanted and needed to stabilize the nation. I don’t know how they’ll solve this economic crisis, but at least they’re talking.”
The escalating crisis began with a freedom movement that started in the capitol of Kiev and spread nationwide, leading to a violent crackdown. President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine Feb. 22.
A new caretaker government led by Alexander Turchnyov was in office less than two weeks when thousands of Russian troops entered the Crimean Peninsula and surrounded military installations and government buildings last weekend.
The number of Russian troops in Crimea had risen to 30,000 by Saturday morning, with fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will annex the region, according to Maloney.
New York City is home to 200,000 Ukrainians with significant populations in all three of the boroughs Maloney represents, specifically in Astoria, Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in northwest Brooklyn. Many of her constituents were in attendance and several spoke.
Dlaboha said, “Ukrainians have been fighting a centuries-long battle for freedom beginning with the Cossacks. We’ve been in the hunt for democracy with dissidents killed at every step of the way. All the momentum we’ve built over the last three months can be derailed by passivity from the West. I fear we might see a screeching U-turn of history.”
Sunday may be a pivotal day in Ukraine’s history because Crimea will hold a referendum, choosing to stay as part of Ukraine or join Russia.
“No country in the world will recognize Crimea as a part of Russia,” Dlaboha said. “It’s unconstitutional and illegitimate. These armed and masked men will be on the streets and it will discourage Crimeans from voicing their real opinions. It’s just not a safe place to express your views right now.”
Walter Danyliviv, of Maspeth, is a third-generation Ukrainian American whose grandfather was born in the United States July 4 during World War II while most of his family perished in the Gulags. He appreciated Maloney’s effort Saturday.
“I think this meeting demonstrated that a large segment of the population supports President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s policy because Ukraine needs help. We can’t do it on our own,” he said.
Maloney vowed to continue outreach with New York’s Ukrainian community, saying, “We stand with Ukraine, we stand against the invaders.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2014 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.