As many as 2,000 New Yorkers are expected to attend a rally Thursday in Washington D.C. to protest Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Protesters are planning to amass in front of the White House, and then again at the Russian Embassy to demand Russia withdraw its troops from Crimea.
Rally organizers said New Yorkers of Ukrainian descent will be joined by individuals of Polish, Lithuanian, Georgian, Circassian, Tatar and Russian background who want to show their solidarity.
Vlad Burlutsky, 42, a Washington Heights resident originally from Moscow, will be going down by bus.
“Most of the Russians here (in NYC) also support the Ukrainians,” said Burlutsky, a political activist who said he was forced to flee to the U.S. last year after becoming involved in political efforts to reform the Russian government.
It’s important “for all Americans to support the Ukrainian people,” Burlutsky added, because Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop with Crimea.
“He will try to expand to other countries. The invasion of the Ukraine has a lot of consequences for Europe and for the West,” said Burlutsky, adding the best option for the U.S. is to curb Russia’s aggressive actions now.
Putin has said the troops are necessary to combat terror and said he reserves the right to use force should he deem it necessary.
Putin’s saber rattling has mobilized the Ukrainian community and its supporters like never before, said Roksolana Lozynskyj, external affairs director of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.
“People who have not been active in the community are coming out in droves,” she said.
The Ukraine occupation is “a geopolitical crisis for us in a local way,” said Lozynskyj. “You’ve heard of think globally but act locally? We’re trying to make the world a better place not just in our neighborhood, but over there as well,” she added.
“We want a peaceful resolution but want to see (Ukraine) territorial integrity maintained,” added Andrij Dobriansky, 38, who helped organize bus rides for the rally.
As diplomats and politicians debate various sanctions and actions to persuade Putin to pullback, the rally’s attendees spit balled their own ideas.
Burlutsky said it is his ambition to see Putin and other government leaders added to “The Magnitsky List,” a list of Russian officials and individuals who are prohibited from entering the U.S. or using its banking system as a result of a bi-partisan 2012 law designed to punish Russian human rights violators.
(The 2012 Magnitsky Act is named in honor of a Russian accountant and auditor, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after exposing a wide-scale fraud corruption by Russian officials.)
“The Magnitsky List is a very good tool to use for these guys: It would be a nightmare for them not to come and enjoy life in Miami, Santa Barbara and New York,” said Burlutsky.