Close to 100 motorists took part in a car rally in Winnipeg Sunday, prompted by the AutoMaidan demonstrations in Ukraine to pay tribute to the Kyiv opposition activist whose bloodied, beaten face was seen in news reports around the world last week.
Dmytro Bulatov, 35, is the leader of AutoMaidan, a group of car owners that has taken part in the protests against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Bulatov went missing Jan. 22, then turned up last week after being tortured and having his ear cut off.
"We're doing this to honour him," Oksana Bondarchuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress's Manitoba council, said before the rally. "He spearheaded AutoMaidan."
Vehicles sporting Ukrainian flags and matching balloons lined up outside the Manitoba legislature Sunday to show their solidarity with the pro-independence movement in Ukraine. They drove through Winnipeg's downtown and The Forks before gathering at St. Mary the Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral on Burrows Avenue for a town hall meeting.
Nearly 5,000 AutoMaidan activists participate in convoys to the homes of high-ranking politicians, transport supplies to protesters in Kyiv's Independence Square and rescue demonstrators caught in violent clashes with authorities.
Late last year, for example, a 1,000-car caravan carried thousands of protesters close to Yanukovych's mansion outside Kyiv before being turned back by police.
Two weeks later, a 200-car column came close to delivering Yanukovych a summons to the "People's Court."
In Winnipeg, the car rally was help to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to let other Canadians know about the situation in Ukraine, said Bondarchuk.
Manitoba has more than 167,000 residents of Ukrainian descent, more than 110,000 of whom live in Winnipeg, census figure show.
Many have close ties to Ukraine and dozens have travelled there as election observers since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991.
Ukraine may have declared its independence, but Moscow is still trying to control Ukraine through Yanukovych and stifling human rights, said Walter Lytwyn.
He drove his family in Sunday's rally.
"It's a call for freedom and for Russians not to occupy Ukraine," Lytwyn said.