Hong Kong's Ukrainians petition Russia's consul for peace in Crimea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 3:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 3:15am

Russia's top diplomat in Hong Kong has received a petition from the city's small but active Ukrainian community who want a peaceful answer to the conflict in their home country.

The group behind the 16- signature appeal will hold a demonstration in Central on Saturday afternoon after Hong Kong police approved their application yesterday for use of public space.

"It will be a peaceful and positive rally," said Oksana Charlton, who was born in Odessa - Ukraine's third biggest city - and moved to Hong Kong in 2008 with her English husband.

She is part of a group of eight Ukrainians who put the petition together and will organise the protest.

"It was very spontaneous and we used Facebook to connect with others," she said.

A consulate spokeswoman confirmed that Consul General Vladimir Kalinin received the petition on Tuesday and informed the embassy in Beijing.

Charlton's mother is from Crimea, the autonomous state in Ukraine that has become a flashpoint after Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed troops to the peninsula, a move viewed by the new Ukrainian government as an act of aggression.

Putin maintains that the move into Crimea was to protect Russian citizens living there.

"For us, Crimea is our holiday place because it is by the sea and beautiful; it's part of our hearts," Charlton said. The 40-year-old mother-of-one added that she feared for the safety of her mother and sisters back home.

The situation in Ukraine was sparked in November when protesters forced out president Viktor Yanukovych after he abandoned a trade deal with Europe to strengthen ties with Russia.

"I love my people, my traditions, my language and I also love being Russian," Charlton said.

"But for Ukraine to be part of Russia and not independent, it's to be faceless. Ukraine is my mother and I want to go back to her because she brought me up."

Charlton said it was hard to quantify the size of Hong Kong's Ukrainian community as they were part of a multinational Russian-speaking community.

"We plan to build a separate Ukrainian community," she said. "Our country is made up of many nationalities like Armenians and Georgians, but we all live under the one roof: Ukraine."