San Jose protesters advocate for ceasefire in Ukraine

Demonstrators support relatives in Ukraine and push for negotiations with the West

A+family+waves+signs+with+the+colors+of+the+Ukraine+flag.+A+Russian+airstrike+hit+a+maternity+hospital+in+Mariupol+yesterday%2C+wounding+at+least+17+individuals.

Carter Chadwick

A family waves signs with the colors of the Ukraine flag. A Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol yesterday, wounding at least 17 individuals.

The San Jose Peace and Justice Center and San Jose Friday Peace Vigil held a demonstration at the Peace Crossroads on Sunday with around 30 protesters to call for a ceasefire in Ukraine after Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24. 

“First of all, people [in the Bay Area] have to understand the history about what’s behind it,” said Nancy Tsou, an event organizer who has been involved in advocacy since the start of the Afghanistan war. “Then people are more willing to understand that negotiations are the only way out for us, and then we can pressure our government to say, ‘Look, we have to negotiate to be fair and respect each other. It’s a security issue.’”

The International Committee of the Red Cross is working to establish humanitarian corridors through which Ukrainian civilians can evacuate the country, and two million people have fled since the start of the conflict. The 1949 Geneva Conventions legally bind 196 states, including all United Nations members, to avoid attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure or using them as targets. Russian shelling has complicated the process, preventing civilians from safely reaching routes out of Ukraine.

“There was a supposedly green corridor for people to leave,” said Victoria Kheyfets, who attended the rally and whose family lives in Kharkiv. “Putin agreed to it from Mariupol, [southern] Ukraine. And as soon as people were leaving, they started shelling, they start bombing them. And that’s not human.”

President Joe Biden banned imports of oil and natural gas from Russia on Tuesday, the latest in a series of sanctions. Gas prices in the Bay Area have felt the impact, increasing to over $5 per gallon, the highest recorded average price in Santa Clara being today. The Russian ruble has dropped in worth by nearly 50% since the start of the invasion. Yesterday Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov charged the United States for staging an “economic war.”

Protesters expressed concern of a possible nuclear disaster given Ukraine’s 15 nuclear reactors. Russia seized the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, on Feb. 24, the first day of the invasion. Ukraine state enterprise Energoatom, which manages the operations of nuclear stations in the country, reported yesterday that the Chernobyl plant has lost electricity, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) lost contact with its nuclear monitoring systems.

Janet Burdick, whose mother attended school in Czechoslovakia, noted the historical parallels between Soviet rule and Russia’s current invasion.

“I was [in Czechoslovakia] in 1980 and at that time saw what it was like to be dominated,” Burdick said. “And then we were there in 2000, and it was just completely different. So the Czech Republic is right there, and they were under Communist rule. This isn’t Communist, but the people I talked to talked about what it’s like to have a country come in and dominate.”

Every morning I’m waking up, because that’s another day, and I’m checking if they’re still alive. I know people who said goodbye to me while they were talking on Messenger.”

— Victoria Kheyfets, protester with family in Ukraine

A Russian airstrike hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol yesterday, wounding at least 17 individuals. Over 1,300 people have died since Russia besieged the city 10 days ago. Ukraine President Volydymyr Zelensky called for the West to close the skies over Ukraine, declaring the attack an “atrocity.”

“My sister in Ukraine, she was hiding in the basement under bombs and shelling for seven days with a four year old,” Kheyfets said. “Every morning I’m waking up, because that’s another day, and I’m checking if they’re still alive. I know people who said goodbye to me while they were talking on Messenger. It’s breaking my heart.”

Associated Student Body (ASB) is currently organizing a Ukraine Fundraiser Task Force with students and clubs divided into various subcommittees led by members of the student council, and ASB will send out a Schoology announcement with specifics this weekend.

Carter Chadwick and Alysa Suleiman