Ukraine supporters in Warren call for more US aid, end to war

Oralandar Brand-Williams

School children lifted a banner showing their love for Ukraine while their parents, Ukrainian-Americans and other supporters carried Ukrainian flags and placards pleading for an end to the war Wednesday in Warren.

About 100 people, some draped in the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, attended a rally outside Warren City Hall where Mayor James Fouts raised the eastern European nation's flag. He also called for President Joe Biden and Congress to change U.S. law to allow Ukrainians wanting to flee the devastation from the war that began weeks ago to immigrate to the U.S.

The rally was sponsored by the city of Warren in conjunction with several area Ukrainian-American organizations.

Sofiia Koval of Warren, who was born in Ukraine, wipes tears from her eyes near the end of a rally in support of the war-torn country on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Warren.

"I stand ready to accept all Ukrainians into Warren," said Fouts. The mayor said he is sending a letter asking Biden and Congress to "take down barriers" that would impede the immediate immigration of Ukrainians. "I want to welcome every man, woman and child into Warren. We welcome you with open arms."

Lesia Florchuk applauded Fouts' actions.

"He's always been kind to the Ukrainians," said Florchuk, a Dearborn resident who is president of the Ukrainian Cultural Center and a member of the Ukrainian-American Crisis Committee.

Florchuk called on Congress and the White House to give Ukraine weapons to help it defend itself in the war against Russia.

"Give them the necessary tools to fight off (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," said Florchuk. "Give them Javelin, MiG and air-to-surface missiles."

On Wednesday, Biden said the U.S. will be sending an additional $800 million in military assistance, making a total of $2 billion in such aid sent to Kyiv since he took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid has been sent in the past week. Biden said the new assistance includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.

“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.

Biden spoke hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a video address to members of U.S. Congress in which he made an impassioned plea for the U.S. and West to provide more help to save his young democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to provide.

Fouts, who called the war against Ukraine "unthinkable ...unwarranted" told the crowd "This flag will stay up here until Ukraine is free"

For Borys Potapenko, a Troy resident, it's been an especially emotional and anxious time.

Potapenko's brother and other relatives live in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital.

Nadiya Molotok, of Warren, was born in Ukraine and held both the Ukrainian and U.S. flags during a rally in Warren on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in support of the war-torn country.

His brother's nephew and his wife are part of the civil defense volunteer force, and the nephew is on the frontline of the war.

"My wife and I vacillate between dread and immense pride," Potapenko told The News. "We can't seem to find a middle ground."

Potapenko was among the speakers at the rally and spoke of the resolve of Ukrainians.

"Ukrainians will not give up," said Potapenko. "Genocide is the only outcome if Putin wins."

"My family will not leave Kyiv," said Potapenko, a former United Nations policy analyst and writer. "They're going to live and die in their beloved Kyiv."

Hanna Kravets of Warren holds a large Ukrainian flag before a rally in support of the country in Warren on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. Kravets  was born in Ukraine.

Lilliana Voronchak, a sixth-grader at the Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic School in Warren, was among about 10 school children who held up a banner that read "Ukraine Is In Our Hearts." 

"Our school is doing what it can," said Voronchak. "We are praying. We have rosaries every morning. It's our homeland. Now we're thinking it might not exist much longer. It's important that we show our support for our homeland."

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

Associated Press contributed.