Ukrainians in Fresno react after Crimeans vote to join Russia

Ukrainians who live in Fresno are sharing their concerns after an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to join Russia.
March 16, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Celebrations were held on Sunday in Crimea, where initial results showed more than 95 percent of the people voted to become part of Russia. The final count is expected on Monday. But many who opposed the measure chose to boycott the vote and stay home.

People who live in the Central Valley and have strong ties to Ukraine are sharing their concerns about the vote.

Every Sunday, about two dozen people gather at the Slavic Baptist Church of the Open Door in Northeast Fresno to attend services in their native language. For them, prayer is the only way they feel they can help drive down the tensions in their homeland. For weeks, they have watched Russian troops move in, and they have constantly monitored the riots in Kiev.

"I really worry about people who live there because any time they can die because the extremists they use guns," said Mike Skitsak.

Natalie Rachkov says these images remind her of a friend who was protesting in Kiev and could not be found for days.

"He was missing for like three days, but then people found him," said Rachkov.

By a show of hands, the majority of the congregation told Action News they believe President Vladimir Putin is using Crimea to lay the groundwork to take over other parts of the region.

For Khrystyna Skitsak, the turmoil is deeply personal. Her boyfriend still lives in the country, and she is worried about how any violence could hurt their future.

"I was going to go to Ukraine in the summer, but now it's unclear whether I will go or not," said Skitsak.

The only person at the service who hoped Crimea will officially join Russia was Yugeen Pres He told Action News that seceding from Ukraine will bring better economic opportunities to the area.

"They just want a better life. They are tired of all the rest of Ukraine. Russia got an army over there, boats on the sea," said Pres.

Several of the people who attend the church say they are collecting money to send to the organizations working for an independent Ukraine.

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