“Our people consider themselves citizens of Ukraine. In eastern Ukraine they consider Russia a fellow nation. From time immemorial we have been linked by family ties and trade relations, especially in Kharkiv — a border city. But I am confident that the vast majority here, including Ukrainians, will advocate for Ukrainian statehood.”
According to Kernes, the situation in Crimea is “very different.”
“It’s an autonomous republic; they have their own constitution. We, however, live and work in accordance with the laws of Ukraine. Therefore, if we are law-abiding citizens and do not respond emotionally, then we will not allow for our meetings to be transformed into a seizure of power on behalf of Russia,” he said.
It is well known that Euromaidan protests had been suppressed in Kharkiv earlier. Cars belonging to Euromaidan and Automaidan protesters had been burned. However, before the expected arrival of Viktor Yanulovych, still president at the time, the city rebelled more openly.
Last week, pro-Russian forces organized demonstrations. Specifically, they removed the EU flag from the Kharkiv Regional State Administration and hoisted the Russian flag instead, without touching the Ukrainian flag by its side.
According to Kernes, “the Russian flag was up several hours. Currently the Ukrainian flag is waving above the regional administration building. Provocations were carried out by both side — radicals, who seized the administration, as well as organized pro-Russian forces,” he said.
“I have encountered this kind of situation before. On February 26, the Russian flag also was raised on the City Council flagpole. I met with the people who did this and explained that declaring the City Council building the territory of another state is illegal. I’m guessing people were acting emotionally, not deliberately. It’s similar this time. It’s important to keep passions under control. The Russian flag was removed and the Ukrainian flag was returned to its place,” he concluded.