In an area commonly known for its ties to Russia, hundreds of eastern Ukrainians stood up to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, not with weapons but with song. Together in an open field, the residents of Dnipropetrovsk sang the Ukrainian national anthem in an act of defiance against Russia's military action and demanded Moscow remove its troops from their homeland.
Video of the rally, sent to TheBlaze by Myroslav Marynovych — the vice rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University and founder of Amnesty International Ukraine — suggests not all eastern Ukrainians are siding with Russia, despite Putin terming the crisis in the country an "unconstitutional coup" and claiming his troops are in Crimea at the request of eastern Ukrainians in need of protection.
Marynovych, who spent nearly 10 years as a prisoner of conscience in the former Soviet Union's gulags, said Putin is waging an "information war" in regards to the crisis in Ukraine. He said Putin was able to convince many U.S. and European leaders months, if not years, ago that he had no intention of invading or becoming involved in Ukraine, despite evidence and testimony from opposition members in Ukraine that this was exactly what he was planning to do.
Even after the Russian military occupation into Crimea last week, Putin's propaganda machine went into overdrive publishing photos of young women taking pictures with Russian soldiers and making it seem as though eastern Ukrainians were willing to give up their sovereignty for Russian protection, Marynovych said. Putin has also accused Ukraine of being a fascist nation filled with right wing extremists.
"We tell people in the West, please come and check all this disinformation for yourself," said Marynovych, insisting that Ukraine is a democratic country whose people want closer ties with Europe, not Russia.
Some Russian opponents claim ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's Russian's faction was working with a Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm at one point and positive stories about Yanukovich were being circulated among Western bloggers before his election.
"Putin is still trying to justify his invasion of Crimea and is contemplating further attacks against other Ukrainian territory claiming that Russian-speaking people in eastern and southern Ukraine need his protection," Alex Kuzma, chief development officer for the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation in the United States, told TheBlaze. "This is footage of a mass rally on Sunday in the southern industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk where more people speak Russian than Ukrainian, but are still deeply pro-Ukrainian and patriotic. ... Two weeks ago, protesters in Dnipropetrovsk blocked a train to keep troops from being sent to Kiev to crack down on the protesters."
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