Exclusive: Protesters Rally Outside Federal Reserve In Solidarity With Ukrainian People After Deadly Violence in Kiev
Feb 19, 2014 10:28 PM EST
With chants of "help Ukraine, help Ukraine" bellowing on this rainy Wednesday afternoon, Ukrainians in New York City gathered en masse at the Federal Reserve Bank on Wednesday afternoon in response to the deadly violence that erupted between riot police and protesters in Kiev on Tuesday night, which killed at least 25 and injured hundreds more.
In late November, peaceful protests began in Kiev's Independence Square to challenge the authoritarian leadership of its President Viktor Yanukovych. The president's turning away from a long anticipated deal with the European Union in exchange for a $15 billion bailout from Russia prompted protests from ordinary Ukrainians ever since then.
Protesters "accused Yanukovych and his supporters in parliament of stalling constitutional reforms that would limit the president's power," as reported in The Associated Press.
"[We're here at the Federal Reserve] because we are asking for sanctions, we are asking for freezing of assets by the U.S. government against the people responsible for the violence in Ukraine," said Andrij Dobriansky, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
"The U.S. Senate passed on January 7 that if violence was perpetrated against peaceful protesters, there would be sanctions," he added.
Resolution 319, as passed by Congress stipulated: "The President and Congress should consider whether to apply to apply targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes against individuals responsible for ordering or carrying out the violence."
On February 14, the House of Representatives passed HR 447 which "support[s] the Democratic and European Aspiration of the People of Ukraine."
The aim for Wednesday's protest at the Federal Reserve was "to expose and dismantle the corruption that funds the authoritarian regime of President Viktor Yanukovych," as read in the flyer.
"Based on publicly available information, the proceeds of corruption in Ukraine are laundered via the international financial system through a network of shell companies and professional intermediaries, one of which is Deutsch Bank... [which is] used by the Ukrainian Bank of Development (UBD), owned by Oleksandr Yanukovych, son of the President...
"We are asking Deutsch Bank and the Federal Reserve to not financially enable criminals in power, who kill, kidnap and terrorize their own people in Ukraine. Our message is: Stop Helping the Yanukovych regime; do not launder their bloody money," the flyer also read.
For his part, President Yanukovych said Wednesday that he agreed on a 'truce' with opposition leaders with "the aim of ending bloodshed and stabilizing the situation in the interests of social peace."
Protesters in Ukraine and outside the Federal Reserve view Yanukovych as a recklessly corrupt 'thug' who has shown acquiesence to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the expense of his own people. In jail during his youth for battery and other charges, he continues to have his connections with shady business oligarchs, and many of his 'friends' are within his administration.
U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Wednesday that there would be consequences if violence in Kiev continued.
The European Union leaders also condemned what they called "the unjustified use of excessive force by the Ukrainian authorities" and said they were urgently preparing targeted sanctions against officials responsible for the crackdown.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the Obama administration said that it had placed 20 top Ukrainian officials on a visa blacklist.