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From rallies to boycotts, state governments and ordinary Americans back Ukraine while condemning Russia

By Travis Caldwell, CNN

Updated: Tue, 01 Mar 2022 08:44:18 GMT

Source: CNN

Russia's invasion has spurred a groundswell of support for Ukraine in the US, where people rallied in demonstrations over the weekend and states announced decisions to boycott or sever ties with Russian entities.

Thousands gathered in cities including Atlanta, Washington, DC, and New York -- where key landmarks were lit up blue and yellow in solidarity with Ukraine.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order Sunday calling for a review of all state purchases with Russian entities, stating she won't permit any investments that "directly or indirectly aid Russia as it commits these human rights violations and atrocities."

"As the governor of the state of New York, the 10th largest economy, larger than Russia, we recognize the unique power we have in joining President (Joe) Biden in economic sanctions," she said.

Other state officials announced they are building on those efforts by boycotting Russian goods and working to cut off Russia's availability to their markets.

One prominent university announced its educational exchange coming to a close, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ending its relationship with a research university in Moscow due to "the actions of the Russian government in Ukraine."

MIT said the move to sever ties with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology comes with "deep regret" due to MIT's "great respect for the Russian people and our profound appreciation for the contributions of the many extraordinary Russian colleagues we have worked with."

Here are some of the ways support is being shown for Ukraine:

Demonstrators decry Russian attacks

About a half million Ukrainians have fled their homes since the fighting began, according to United Nations figures, and at least 352 civilians in Ukraine have been killed, including 14 children, according to Ukraine's Interior Ministry. The UN has reported more than 100 deaths, but the true figure is feared to be "considerably higher," the UN's Michelle Bachelet said Monday.

The news compelled many Americans -- who have tuned in to traditional and social media outlets to witness Ukrainians sharing their day-to-day fights for survival -- to congregate in city parks and along busy intersections over the weekend.

In Los Angeles, a large crowd rallied for hours Saturday afternoon as cars drove by honking to signal their support, according to Mark Haynie, who was there with his wife, Anastasiia Ponomarova. The crowd was mostly Ukrainians but there were other eastern Europeans as well, he said, including Russians.

Haynie told CNN Ponomarova felt few people cared when parts of Ukraine fell under the control of Russian-backed separatists in 2014 but is happy more attention has been given regarding the last week's invasion.

At Times Square on Saturday, Olga Ladygina, who is from Kyiv, told CNN she has been emotional watching the news and trying to call her loved ones who remain in Ukraine.

"I think that the whole world right now needs to unite," Ladygina said, adding: "Now is the time to say no and stop one person who keeps in fear the whole world."

Simeon Tzolov estimated hundreds of people were at Sunday's rally in Chicago's Ukrainian Village, telling CNN he saw Ukrainian flags, along with those from the US, Lithuania and Latvia. Tzolov himself is Bulgarian and American, he said, but he was there to support his Ukrainian friends and coworkers, calling the conflict in Ukraine an "unjust" and "unprovoked war."

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said at the rally that his family originally hails from Kyiv, added that he felt it was critical to recognize the Ukrainians' resilience and bravery during the invasion.

"Today we stand in resolve against tyranny. Today we stand for democracy and today we stand united for peace and freedom for Ukraine. To the heroes of Ukraine, Illinois is with you," Pritzker said.

States, business leaders review commerce with Russia

While Western nations have sought to stem Russian economic strength by imposing sweeping sanctions, American business groups have also been quick to condemn the invasion.

The US Chamber of Commerce on Thursday described it as a serious breach of international law and "an affront to our steadfast belief in a world where democratic countries, following the rule of law and the free enterprise system, can be free and prosper."

Echoing those comments, the Business Roundtable, a group of leading CEOs, signaled support for holding Russia accountable, saying in a statement, "We welcome the Administration's partnership with our allies to coordinate the most effective response to this attack and defend the rule of law."

Along with New York, several state governments announced a halt in commerce with Russian businesses as well as more symbolic gestures such as removing Russian-branded alcohol from store shelves.

"This is a small, but meaningful way to take action and show the people of Ukraine we support them while also firmly stating our opposition to the unnecessary humanitarian crisis Russia has inexcusably created," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said after asking for the removal of Russian-sourced liquor from ABC stores.

"I encourage all Alabama citizens and businesses to explore ways they can show support for Ukraine and discourage Russia for continuing this unreasonable siege on a neighboring country," Ivey said.

Several states including Utah, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire declared plans to boycott Russian spirits and pull the products from shelves where applicable.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called for "decisive action" aimed to support Ukraine by announcing Saturday an immediate review of the state's procurement of all goods and services involving Russian companies and urging an end to statewide sister-city partnerships with Russia. Youngkin urged the Virginia Retirement System and university endowments to immediately divest of Russian holdings.

In Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order announcing the state's intent to accept Ukrainian refugees and ensure it is not contracting with or investing in Russian state-owned companies.

Other states that declared similar reviews of contracts involving Russian-owned or Russian-affiliated entities include North Carolina, Indiana, Georgia and Maryland.

The US, UK and EU on Friday sanctioned President Vladimir Putin himself.


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