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Ukrainian community rallies against violence, corruption in homeland

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Ready for the Orange Revolution part two?

Nearly a decade ago, Ukrainian-Canadians rallied in solidarity with Ukrainians in their Orange Revolution against corruption in the 2004 presidential election.

Once again they’re raising their voices, this time against violence and corruption in Ukraine.

"People are very agitated in Ukraine," said Winnipegger Ostap Skrypnyk.

On the weekend in Kyiv, peaceful demonstrators opposed to Ukraine’s last-minute decision to back away from joining the European Union were attacked by police. Protesters have since occupied some government buildings and Kyiv’s Independence Square.

On Monday, an estimated 300 Winnipeggers rallied outside the Manitoba capital to protest violence and corruption in Ukraine.

It was the second Monday in a row some of the 110,000 Manitobans of Ukrainian descent held demonstrations.

"The Monday before, there were 130 when there was still some hope President (Viktor) Yanukovych would sign the agreement," Skrypnyk said.

The agreement would have seen Ukraine pursue membership in the European Union, a move many say would have helped Ukraine modernize and become a law-based, democratic and open-market state.

The rally in Winnipeg this week, after Ukraine turned away from Europe and police beat protesters, was much bigger and more solemn, said Skrypnyk.

"It reflects the mood in Ukraine itself," said the former executive director of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who has volunteered as a monitor in more than one Ukraine election.

They’re not alone in their concern.

"The Canadian government has been quite strong in condemning the violence," and in encouraging Ukraine’s president to pursue European integration, said Skrypnyk.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz issued a statement supporting the Canadian government and condemning the use of violence by Ukrainian authorities against peaceful protesters on the weekend.

Skrypnyk expects the political situation in Ukraine will calm down over the next few weeks until the next presidential election in 2015.

On Tuesday, Yanukovych survived a no-confidence vote after some legislators demanded the resignation of the government. Tuesday’s vote needed 226 votes for approval and was backed by just 186 lawmakers. Five voted no, 12 abstained and 135 did not vote.

"The parties will be jockeying for position for 2015, unless something radical happens," like Ukraine’s president turning away from Europe and following Moscow’s advice that it join Russia in a Eurasian trade bloc, for instance.

"If he did that, things would explode," said Skrypnyk. For now, Ukraine will "muddle through" until the next presidential election in 2015, he said, when the Orange Revolution may be revived.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

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