Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Confrontation disappoints Manitoba Russian leader

Didn't back Victory Day rally, where tempers flared over Ukraine

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A leader in Manitoba's Russian community says he doesn't want political turmoil in eastern Ukraine to spill over into people's lives in Winnipeg.

That's why Dmitriy Shishkin said he didn't support the Victory Day parade Saturday, where about 200 Ukrainian- and Russian-Canadians clashed briefly on the steps of the Manitoba legislature.

"Organizers of that event contacted me to support it," said Shishkin, president of the Manitoba Russian Cultural and Educational Centre and editor of Crossroads Winnipeg, the Russian community newspaper.

"Because of the current political situation, I did not support that event."

The Victory Day parade commemorates the fallen in the Second World War, Shishkin noted.

In Winnipeg, it turned into a shouting match between Ukrainian- and Russian-Canadians Saturday.

Many Russians at the Victory Day parade in here wore the Remembrance Day poppy, but it was the presence of the orange-and-black-striped St. George's ribbon pinned on T-shirts and polo shirts that inflamed tempers.

For weeks, pro-Russian supporters have been seen wearing the St. George's ribbon during violent clashes in eastern Ukraine. In Winnipeg, Ukrainian- and Russian-Canadians shouted each other down Saturday, some calling the other side "fascist."

The Russian government distributed the St. George's ribbons to the parade-goers in Winnipeg through its Canadian consulate, the website reported. It advertised the parade as "apolitical."

A spokeswoman for the Manitoba Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress said earlier it was hurtful to organize the event for the first time now, with all the tensions in Ukraine and pro-Russian forces threatening to tear that country apart.

Until now, there hasn't been any ethnic tension between Russians and Ukrainians in Manitoba, Shishkin said Sunday.

Holding a Victory Day parade for the first time in Winnipeg this past weekend wasn't very sensitive, he said.

"First of all, we should remember that we are Canadians, members of a multicultural society, and have to respect each other. To bring all that turmoil going on in Ukraine right now to Canada is the (last thing) we want to do," said Shishkin, who was at the Russian language school Sunday in Grant Park Shopping Centre.

"All Russian-speaking people of Manitoba worry and sympathize with people of Ukraine and wish (for a) just, peaceful resolution of that conflict as soon as possible," he said.

"Lives lost in (the) last months in Kyiv, Donbass and Odessa is the terrible price paid by ordinary people for political ambitions of some politicians."

Shishkin said he hopes Russian- and Ukrainian-Canadians can get together soon for a show of unity and to clear the air of misunderstandings.

Both Ukraine and Russia have pavilions in Winnipeg's annual summer festival, Folklorama, and Shishkin hopes it continues to be a celebration of culture and doesn't devolve into political theatre.

He said he hopes that in future, a Victory Day service can be organized by the two communities working together.

"Victory Day should unite people, not divide," he said. "We both were fighting Nazis" during the Second World War.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2014 A3


Updated on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 6:06 AM CDT: Replaces photo

8:23 AM: Corrects spelling of Odessa

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