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Dispatches from Ukraine

Inside the crisis in Ukraine

Pro-Russian soldiers march outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, Thursday, March 20, 2014. With thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and sailors trapped on military bases, surrounded by heavily armed Russian forces and pro-Russia militia, the Kiev government said it was drawing up plans to evacuate its outnumbered troops from Crimea back to the mainland and would seek U.N. support to turn the peninsula into a demilitarized zone.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Pro-Russian soldiers march outside an Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, Thursday, March 20, 2014. With thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and sailors trapped on military bases, surrounded by heavily armed Russian forces and pro-Russia militia, the Kiev government said it was drawing up plans to evacuate its outnumbered troops from Crimea back to the mainland and would seek U.N. support to turn the peninsula into a demilitarized zone.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Editor’s Note: This is one of an occasional series of dispatches on the crisis in Ukraine as reported by Tetiana Ostapenko, a Ukrainian journalist with ties to Franklin County.

The Sunday referendum, in which residents of the peninsula voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine and join Russia, was a sham.

In television news reports we see that some of the peninsula inhabitants, especially older ones, are glad. They say that it was the dream of their life to become the part of Russia.

But none of the 300,000 Crimean “Tatars” or native inhabitants of the peninsula voted.

After World War II, the Tatars were expelled from the peninsula by Stalin. They were ordered to leave territory within a few hours, were loaded into trucks without windows and sent to Siberia. Almost half of them died.

How can they forget it?

Now, threatened families of Crimean Tatars leave the peninsula again, headed for central and western Ukraine.

Our Vinnytsia also invited refugees. More than 200 people, mostly women and children, are settled in places that were prepared for them. More than 400 people will be expected.

Some people say that the best way to stop Russia is to cut water and electricity supplies to Crimean peninsula. But Crimea depends on Ukraine. Eighty percent of water and electricity comes to the peninsula from the mainland of Ukraine. Some say that the people who want to be in Russia should move there and we wouldn’t stop them.

At the same time, “Tourists” from Russia have arrived in Ukraine. They took part in pro-Russians meetings in eastern Ukrainian cities.

Last Thursday, pro-Russian thugs beat pro-Ukrainian demonstration in Donetsk.

The stones were flying.

With shouts of “Russia,” the aggressive “Russian tourists” attacked pro-Ukrainian activists with fists and feet and ordered them to go on knees.

At least 20 pro-Ukrainian activist were injured and 22-year-old student Dmytro Cherniavsky was killed. He joined the Heavenly Hundred who died during revolution. He was the only child in the family, a smart, behaved boy.

There is no threat to ethnic Russians and Russians speakers in our country. There is a threat just to those who want Ukraine to be free.

Yet, a lot of Russians support independence of Ukraine. Last Sunday, large demonstrations in support of Ukraine ran in Moscow and other big cities of Russia. The people condemned Putin’s occupation of our territory and showed they didn’t want the war. We are grateful to them.

To protect our homeland against Russian armed forces, the National Guards were created. Twenty thousand volunteers will join; another 20,000 are planned to join the Ukrainian army.

We must win because the Heavenly Hundred are behind us. We have no doubt we’ll win, but the question is what will be the price of our freedom. We don’t want to lose the people.

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