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Alberta's Ukrainian community sounds the alarm over Russian incursion threat


As Canada sends a small group of special forces and government officials to Ukraine, some of Alberta's Ukrainian community is calling for allies to do more to support the European nation.

An estimated 100,000 Russian troops are poised to strike along Ukraine's eastern border.

Inna Platonova, Calgary branch president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has family and friends in the country and says each passing day is agonizing and heart-breaking.

"Almost every day you hear from the frontlines, that Ukrainian defenders are being killed," she said.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly spoke in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital city on Tuesday, visiting with local leaders and the few Canadian Forces soldiers who have been deployed to provide training support.

"Russia is the aggressor. We make sure to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine," said Joly. "(Canada is) engaging through ... any form of diplomatic channels with all parties, including Russia to make sure we have a diplomatic solution."

There's no decision for Canada to send military equipment.

"It's very important that a number of stable voices take a strong stance against the unreasonable demands that are being made," said Lori Williams, political science professor at Mount Royal University.

Russia is demanding that Ukraine be blocked from joining NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Williams says there is no scenario in which that demand can be met.

In 2014, Russia began a military operation to annex and occupy the peninsula of Crimea, and armed conflict continues in eastern regions.

Anna Zakharova, 36, and her immediate family fled Crimea for Calgary eight years ago.

"I remember the feeling of adrenaline rushing through my blood and my hands shaking, not knowing what's going to happen. (And asking) what shall we do, shall we flee?" said Zakharova.

She now resides in Edmonton and says other nations need to help prevent further suffering.

"Will the international community actually be able to help and do something to stop this?" she said.

Ukrainians in Calgary are sharing their stories and want the world to understand their plight.

"Ukraine is not a vassal state of Russia, it is not (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's puppet. It is a sovereign, independent, democratic country," said Bohdan Romaniuk of the Calgary Ukraine Canadian Professional Business Association.

He says Ukraine's allies need to boost its defences by providing more military equipment, and Platonova agrees.

"We are grateful for what Canada is doing and we hope that the support will continue and strengthen," he said. "We hope that Canada (will) provide defence equipment and tools to help Ukraine defend itself."

As well, she hopes a new social media campaign #standwithukraine will gain momentum and spread awareness.

Platonova is hosting a very small event in at the Peace Bridge in Calgary on Jan. 22 as that is the special day of unity in Ukraine. Top Stories

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