Ukrainian official describes horrors of Russian invasion and asks Arizona legislature for help

Eryka Forquer

Cronkite News

Six weeks after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine’s consul general in San Francisco on Thursday urged Arizona lawmakers to provide more support to Ukraine and its people during a special joint legislative session.

Dmytro Kushneruk said Russia had committed a “crime against humanity” and the Ukrainian people since it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“Those lucky enough to stay alive tell horrible stories of horrific terrorism and suffering,” said Kushneruk, who was appointed consul-general in 2020. “A vast body of evidence of rape, torture and murder of civilians by Russian forces.”

And as Russian troops regroup to focus on eastern Ukraine, Kushneruk said reinforcements from the west are crucial to preventing further civilian casualties.

“We are now saying that Ukraine needs three things, and those three things are guns, guns and guns,” he told lawmakers.

This includes aircraft, heavy artillery, tanks and armored vehicles, and long-range missiles needed to destroy Russian ships wiping out Mariupol and other southern cities.

As of Wednesday, 1,611 civilians have been killed and 2,227 injured in Ukraine, according to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

Kushneruk pointed out that Ukrainian authorities have started uncovering mass graves of civilians in places that were under Russian occupation.

“Something like this seems impossible in the heart of Europe in the 21st century, but unfortunately it is not,” he said. “This is the crime against humanity.”

Kushneruk said the suspension of Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council, voted for by the General Assembly on Thursday, was not enough. He believes Russia should be barred from the UN Security Council because it “has no right to be there and block the resolutions” dealing with the invasion.

The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs has already raised £9,000 in equipment and supplies for Ukraine’s fighters. The equipment, donated by local, state, state and tribal law enforcement agencies, includes 874 bulletproof vests and 77 helmets, as well as shoes, tactical clothing, pads and shields.

“Arizona stands with Ukraine,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in a March 31 news release. “Everyday citizens risk their lives, fight for their freedom and deserve all the support we can give them.”

MP Thomas “TJ” Shope, R-Coolidge, said it was important for people to know about the events of the war in real time to remind themselves that this is happening. He also said the people of Arizona must do what they can to help.

“Should Ukraine fall, it will not end with Ukraine,” Shope said. “We should do what we can to ensure that empires are a thing of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and that they are left behind in the 21st.”

Ukrainian fighters repelled the Russians in northern and western Ukraine, but intense fighting continues in the south and east. Kushernuk told lawmakers that efforts must shift from helping Ukraine survive to strengthening Ukraine to victory.

“The opportunity to act is now, when Ukraine has the momentum, when Russian forces are losing, when they are regrouping, and before they do even more damage to our civilian population,” he said.

He asked for support for Ukraine by any means, be it through humanitarian aid, financial support or help with refugees.

“I will quote one of the Presidents of the European Parliament as saying: ‘If freedom has a name today, it is Ukraine. The Ukrainian flag is the flag of freedom.”

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