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Hundreds of Ukrainians protested in front of the White House Thursday afternoon to demand that the Obama administration take a tougher stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukrainian territory.
Scores of protesters waved Ukrainian flags and chanted songs by the White House’s front gate as they urged Obama to intervene on behalf of their brethren abroad. Some held signs that read, “Hitler 1938—Putin 2014.”
As Russian troops stand ready to take action in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, protesters in Washington expressed concern about the White House’s cautious stance.
“I understand they’re limited in what they can do, but I wish they were a little swifter,” said one demonstrator who identified himself as Taras. “I feel up to even yesterday they [the White House] were talking in terms of ‘if’ when the fact was that Ukraine’s territory has been invaded.”
“I kind of wish some of the actions were swifter and bit more severe,” he said.
Another demonstrator named Andre said he is still waiting on Obama to take a bold stance.
“If Obama can help, we need help,” Andre said as he smoked a cigarette. “Ukraine is not strong right now. We have problems with finance [and] the army is not strong like Russia.”
Asked what he made of Putin’s decision to invade, Andre bristled.
“Putin? He doesn’t think. That’s the problem,” Andre said. “I’m upset about the Russian occupation of Ukraine.
Taras noted that U.S. intelligences agencies and the administration seemed “a bit caught off guard” by Putin’s decision to send troops over the border.
“There was a joke among the diaspora, ‘Oh wait until the [Sochi] Olympics are over and you will see. But I’m not sure it was a joke. It seems to have been pretty realistic,” he said. “It does seem intelligence agencies were caught off guard.”
Others worried that as the situation drags on, Putin will become emboldened.
“Russia has a lot of power and the USA on the other hand doesn’t want any problems with other countries,” said another protester who identified himself as Velentin. “The position the USA is in is a tough position.”
“Russia has troops in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people in America don’t like that,” he said. “It’s just a devastation for all of us.”
Asked why he came to demonstrate in front of the White House, Valentin responded: “We just want the USA to step in and be supportive. I hope they have received the message we’re trying to give them. They haven’t done enough. But hopefully they’ll get the message and step forward and figure out some type of a plan.”
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday that the invasion of the Ukraine “doesn’t have to be a negative thing.”