UKRAINIAN families in Edinburgh have been sending parcels of food and money to their relatives in Kiev as political turmoil grips the country.
They are planning demonstrations and marches against the interference of Russia in Ukraine’s government after the ousting of president Viktor Yanukovich.
The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain – which runs a social club in Royal Terrace – has already held three vigils outside the City Chambers while the uprising was taking place in Kiev, a city twinned with Edinburgh. Now it also wants to protest outside the Russian consulate in Melville Street to raise awareness of “Russian intimidation”.
Michael Ostapko, a second-generation Ukrainian in Edinburgh and chairman of the branch, said: “We have been shocked and horrified by what has been happening in Kiev.
“We have been in constant contact with our families over there, and I have been sent information and images of people killed by snipers by a journalist friend, so we know the truth of what’s going on.
“All of us know someone who was there. I know of a 17-year-old boy who left his town of Ivano-Frankivsk in west Ukraine to join the protests in Kiev and was killed.
“We are all affected, no matter the distance.”
The 62-year-old retired civil servant added: “There have been rumblings of a protest for a long time. People were fed up with Yanukovich and his corruption – which is all coming to light now that he has fled.
“It has all happened so quickly and people here, who are second, third even fourth-generation Scots-Ukrainians are frustrated because they can’t be there, but we are able to do things to help and we have been sending money and food parcels.
“Many people there have nothing, which is ridiculous in a country full of rich natural resources, but that’s what the corruption has done.
“We raised £500 at our annual Burns-Shevchenko evening and that will be used by a Ukrainian charity to help those most in need.”
Former chairman of the Ukrainian Edinburgh community, Alex Kuryluk, said: “Recent events have been very distressing and we held two masses in our church in Dalmeny Street to honour the 88 who died as a result of the protests – many who were shot by snipers on February 20.
“Ukrainians all over the world hail them as heroes.”
An arrest warrant has been issued for the former Ukrainian president after MPs voted to remove him from office. His whereabouts are unknown.
Deputy leader of the city council Steve Cardownie, whose wife Nataliya is from Kiev, said his father-in-law had attended the protests.
Councillor Cardownie said: “He’s not a political man, just an ordinary guy but he was moved to join in a demonstration in Independence Square against Yanukovich and his decision to pull away from the EU. Luckily he was safe and my wife has been in constant contact with her family, but it’s been a big worry.”
A book of condolence is open at the Ukraine consulate in Windsor Street today and tomorrow.