The effects of Russia’s brazen overnight invasion of Ukraine rippled onto New York City’s streets on Thursday as residents voiced widespread opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
After many weeks of escalation and speculation, Putin launched an early morning attack on Ukraine Thursday, prompting worldwide condemnation from President Joe Biden and other allied nations. In New York City, protestors, many of whom have loved ones in Ukraine, gathered outside of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation on East 91st Street and stressed the need for a worldwide united front to prevent war.
The crowd was at times led by Arthur Zgurov, a doctor from Odessa, Ukraine, as he screamed “stop Putin now” and “save Ukraine, save the world” through a megaphone.
New York City is home to some 150,000 Ukrainians.
“I came here to stop the spread of this horrible disease called Putin,” said Zgurov. “Stop its spread to Europe, to the entire world. We have to stop this because, otherwise, there will be no peace anywhere. We’re united, we’re together and we will win.”
Jason Birchard, the third-generation owner of the iconic restaurant Veselka near Manhattan’s Ukraine Village, also known as “Little Ukraine,” said he wept as he watched on television as Russian bombs fell in Ukraine, where his grandfather once fled to escape Russian aggression in the 1940s. He said that not only is there a war on Ukraine, but on the rest of the world as well.
“Myself, the staff are scared, frightened, angry. I was a big believer in diplomacy,” Birchard said. “This is a free country of 30 years. It’s unfathomable. We did not provoke this. The average Russian is being force-fed a narrative that is the opposite of what’s really happening.”
Concerns over Ukraine extended to the City Council, where Brooklyn Councilmember Inna Vernikov, who is of Ukranian descent, condemned Putin's attacks on the floor.
"I stand with people of Ukraine as well as my constituents who still have family and friends and ties to their homeland," Vernikov said. "My office stands ready to assist in any way."