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Locals mourn jetliner victims

Pro-Russian separatist symbols stir up emotions

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People gather on the steps of the Manitoba legislature Thursday night to participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims of flight MH17.

NORBERT IWAN PHOTO Enlarge Image

People gather on the steps of the Manitoba legislature Thursday night to participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims of flight MH17.

Manitobans are mourning the deaths of 298 people in eastern Ukraine -- even as reports reveal some controversial symbols of pro-Russian separatists are appearing again.

Hours after learning a jetliner carrying 298 innocent people was shot out of the sky over Ukraine, science teacher Norbert Iwan was paying his respects with many others on the steps of the Manitoba legislature.

"It's mind-boggling," said the man who has been poring over grisly images streaming onto the Internet of the disaster scene.

Thursday night, Iwan saw a note calling for people to gather at 9 p.m. at the Manitoba legislature for a vigil in memory of the people who died on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. He took his camera.

After the sun set on a tragic day so far away, Iwan captured images of the solemn, candlelight ceremony. He posted the photos on Facebook to share Winnipeggers' condolences with the world.

"People appreciated it," said Iwan. The photographs from the ceremony drew comments from strangers in Australia, Europe and the U.S., he said.

In May, a less-than-solemn event on the steps of the Manitoba legislature saw Ukrainian and Russian Canadians get into a shouting match at a Victory Day ceremony commemorating the Second World War defeat of the Nazis. St. George's ribbons worn by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were on display at the event, offending Ukrainians who see the separatists at terrorists.

In Winnipeg, a day after the jetliner was shot down over the skies of the Ukrainian conflict with pro-Russian separatists, the St. George's ribbons showed up again.

"Unfortunately, even today, I've just seen a car with St. George ribbons," said Yevhen Viznytsya. The multilingual computer programmer from Ukraine moved to Winnipeg four years ago.

He said Ukrainian people have been calling the pro-Russian separatists terrorists for a reason.

"They don't care about eastern Ukrainians, they don't care about eastern Ukraine, they don't care about rest of the world, and if they have enough power they will destroy it," he said.

Members of Winnipeg's Russian community -- Dmitriy Shishkin, the editor of Winnipeg's Russian community newspaper, Crossroads Winnipeg, and Walter Dyck, spokesman for the community website, RussianWinnipeg.org. -- did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

In a later email, Dyck said "the loss was tragic but there is currently too much conflicting information to make an educated conclusion."

The plane that crashed in Ukraine Thursday was apparently shot down by a surface-to-air missile. The Ukrainian government blames pro-Russian militants for the tragedy. The separatists say the Ukrainians are responsible. But U.S. military and intelligence officials Friday said the separatists have been trained on Russian territory in recent weeks to fire anti-aircraft missiles. The mobile missile systems could be moved around on vehicles and are suspected of having been used in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet.

Iwan, who speaks Polish, Ukrainian and Russian and has served as an election observer in Ukraine several times, wonders what will happen to those responsible for the death of 298 innocent people, and what the world will do if Russia is to blame. "Nobody wants to go to war but there needs to be accountability for these actions."

 

-- with The Associated Press file

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 19, 2014 A14

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Updated on Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 12:34 PM CDT: Updates with comment from Walter Dyck

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