Photo: Facebook Page of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk
OTTAWA – Ukrainian-Canadians marched in Ottawa Sunday in an attempt to convince some of the world’s bigger powers to force Russia to remove its grip on Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Only France’s ambassador, Philippe Zeller, personally spoke with the dozens of protesters as they waved flags and placards outside the French embassy.
The demonstrations began in front of the Chinese embassy before snaking through the capital to buildings housing diplomats from France, the United States and the UK.
Chanting anti-Russia slogans and waving placards, they urged the signators of a 1994 nuclear disarmament agreement with Ukraine to live up to the accord.
“We are now turning to the guarantors of the Budapest agreement, the countries that promised Ukraine to do everything in their capacity to prevent it from economic warfare and to protect its territorial integrity,” said protest organizer Lada Roslycky.
“At this time, they are grossly failing Ukraine’s needs.”
The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was originally signed by Russia, the U.S. and the United Kingdom, giving Ukraine assurances of protection in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons.
China and France later gave assurances that they would also live up to the accord’s provisions.
“We just want to say that we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and its people,” Zeller told protesters outside the French embassy.
But an advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday suggested the Budapest accord could actually be used by Russia as justification for sending troops into Ukraine to protect people in the Crimean peninsula.
Sergey Glazyev accused the United States of interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs, saying Russia then had no choice but to intervene.
Canada has made clear it supports the interim government in Kyiv, which Russia says was formed as the result a “coup.”
Last week, the Harper government imposed a travel ban on individuals it deemed as a threat to Ukraine.
As well, nine Russian soldiers participating in military exercises were ordered to leave Canada by the end of the day Friday.
Canada has sent two military observers, part of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to monitor the Russian military situation in Ukraine.
But the OSCE has so far been unsuccessful in getting the observers into Crimea.
They tried three times last week only to be turned back. Warning shots were fired during their last attempt to enter the region. They did not make another attempt on Sunday and it was unclear whether they would try again any time soon.
Germany’s Angela Merkel joined Harper and other G7 leaders Sunday in telling Putin that a planned referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal and violated Ukraine’s constitution.
But Putin has only tightened Russia’s grip further on Crimea, by seizing another border post.
As well, heavily-armed soldiers wearing military uniforms with no country markings reportedly sealed off a military airport in Crimea.
Street violence also erupted in the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol after rival pro- and anti-Russia protesters clashed.
The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama would meet Wednesday with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk in Washington in an attempt to peacefully end the crisis.