Ukrainian-Americans deeply concerned over crisis

Jim Dolan reports from the East Village.
March 3, 2014 8:29:43 PM PST
As the situation grows tenser in Ukraine, so does the concern among those who have family and friends there.

At the memorial on Second Avenue, they used candles to light up the pictures of the martyrs, the men and women who died so that Ukraine could live in freedom.

For the New Yorkers who keep the vigil and honor the dead, there is so much at stake.

The people's revolution has turned now, into Putin's war. Russian troops control Crimea, the eastern Ukraine peninsula in the Black Sea.

They control the sky, two Ukrainian ships have been ordered to surrender to the Russian navy and all 10 Ukrainian military bases in Crimea are surrounded by Russian forces.

All this, Russia says, is to protect Russians in Ukraine.

The president is hoping economic sanctions can bring Putin to heel.

Back in New York, they keep up with family and friends back home on the internet and they worry.

"Ukraine today is under attack. There is no question about it that the Russian government headed by Vladimir Putin has declared war on Ukraine," Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, chief rabbi of Ukraine, said.

With more Russian troops moving into Ukraine and the region of Crimea, many Ukrainians believe the situation is growing worse.

Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich lives there as chief rabbi. He and other Jews are worried.

"If they stay in Crimea, it will be bad. If they try and come further into Ukraine, it's going to get very bad," he said.

Rabbi Bleich is schedule to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is traveling to Kiev on Tuesday. The secretary is carrying a strong message from President Obama, who is considering economic and diplomatic options to isolate Russia.

"Over time this will be a costly proposition for Russia and now's the time for them to consider whether they can serve their interests in a way that resorts to diplomacy as opposed to force," Obama said from the Oval Office.

Secretary Kerry will also warn the Russians of the consequences.

"Russia has engaged in a military act of aggression against another country and it has huge risks. It's a 19th century act in the 21st century," Kerry said.

It has also set off protests around the world and here in New York City where many Ukrainians joined several rallies.

As an American ex-patriot, Rabbi Bleich is the leader of New York City's Ukrainian-American community. As he prepares to travel back Ukraine he is setting up a relief fund for what he believes could be a humanitarian crisis if the situation worsens.

"The stores in Crimea already there is a problem with food and supplies. There is a problem with food and supplies in Kiev because people are afraid," Rabbi Bleich said.