Ukrainian expats united for “peace, democracy and the rule of law”

Ukrainians living in Portugal say that a worsening of the crisis in their homeland, such as the annexing of Crimea, could have grave consequences far beyond Ukraine’s borders.
“The Ukrainian crisis is not only about the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, it is about the stability of the post-Cold War world order in Europe,” the president of the Association of Ukrainians in Portugal, Pavlo Sadokha, told the Resident.
The pro-EU Ukrainian community here condemns Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for aggressively interfering in events back home.
“Ukraine is opposed to the rule of force, intimidation and provocations from President Putin’s side.” What is needed is “peace, democracy and the rule of law,” said Sadokha.
Members of his association have been holding regular protest demonstrations outside the Russian Embassy in Lisbon.
“We are going to do everything we can to wake up public opinion and the political establishment in order to stop Putin’s aggression and interference in Ukraine,” Sadokha explained.
The association is also raising money to help victims of the crisis.
In a spontaneous initiative during a rally in front of the Russian Embassy last week, many Ukrainian-born reservists volunteered to enrol in the Ukrainian Army to defend their homeland’s independence and territorial integrity.
Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s new Western-backed government. Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, and especially the referendum there scheduled for Sunday, could be critical to hopes of bringing stability in the region and beyond.
Ukraine and the West say that the referendum on Crimea’s future is illegal. With international negotiations in limbo, US officials said this week there would be little to talk about if the referendum goes ahead.
Voters will be asked if they want to be a part of the Russian Federation or remain an autonomous territory within Ukraine.
If the majority vote in favour of leaving Ukraine, the Russian Parliament may organise a vote on Crimea’s annexation within days.
Sadokha claimed that misinformation was being disseminated about the current situation and that some sources were exaggerating divisions.
“First, the Ukrainians are united against Yanukovych’s dictatorship. Now Putin’s aggression has united Ukrainians in an unprecedented way, without regard to language, religion and origin.
“There is a small percentage of people supporting Russia as can be seen in Crimea, but even there a huge part of the population is opposed to the aggression and Anschluss.
“This part of the population, including not only Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, but also ethnic Russians, is being intimidated and silenced under threat of weapons and physical violence.”
He added: “We believe diplomatic and economic sanctions are important and should be further enhanced. The military containment – not war – is also very important and should be launched.”
There are about 45,000 Ukrainian expatriates living in this country in addition to the 10,000 who have taken out Portuguese citizenship. They represent the second biggest immigrant community after Brazilians.
Ukrainians have been immigrating to Portugal over the past 20 years because of the economic hardship and massive unemployment that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.
They have been attracted by jobs, particularly in the construction industry, and favourable immigration legislation. After the bloodless ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2004 against a rigged run-off election and amid rising hopes of economic improvement, a number of one Ukrainians returned home.
Portugal has become a much less attractive place to live with the rise of austerity in this country. Ukrainians have been moving to better-off countries in the EU, including Germany, France and the UK.
Ukrainians living abroad not only keep very close ties with their families and developments back home, but hugely contribute to the Ukrainian economy through remittances.