Ukrainian official details horrors of Russian invasion, asks Arizona lawmakers for help

Dmytro Kushneruk, consul general of Ukraine in San Francisco, told a joint session of the Legislature on Thursday that efforts need to shift from helping Ukraine to survive to empowering Ukraine to win. (Photo by Samantha Chow/Cronkite News)

“If freedom has a name today, its name is Ukraine,” says Dmytro Kushneruk, consul general of Ukraine in San Francisco. (Photo by Samantha Chow/Cronkite News)

State Sen. Lisa Otondo and state Rep. Brian Fernandez, both Democrats from southwestern Arizona, stand to applaud Dmytro Kushneruk after his address to the Legislature. (Photo by Samantha Chow/Cronkite News)

Sunflowers – which are Ukraine’s national flower – were handed out by Rep. Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale, before Thursday’s special joint session of the Legislature. (Photo by Samantha Chow/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Six weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, the consul general of Ukraine in San Francisco urged Arizona lawmakers on Thursday to provide greater assistance to Ukraine and its people during a special joint session of the Legislature.

Dmytro Kushneruk said Russia has inflicted a “crime against humanity” and the Ukrainian people since it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

(Video by Emma VandenEinde/Cronkite News)

“Those who were lucky to stay alive detail horrible stories of awful terrorism and suffering,” said Kushneruk, who was appointed consul general in 2020. “Huge numbers of evidences of rapes, tortures and murders of civilian people by the Russian armed forces.”

And as Russian troops regroup to focus on eastern Ukraine, Kushneruk said, reinforcements from the West are crucial to prevent further loss of civilian lives.

“We say right now that Ukraine needs three things, and these three things are weapons, weapons and weapons,” he told the legislators.

That includes airplanes, heavy artillery, tanks and armored vehicles, as well as long-range missiles needed to destroy Russian ships obliterating Mariupol and other southern cities.

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According to the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, as of Wednesday, 1,611 civilians have been killed and 2,227 have been injured in Ukraine.

Kushneruk noted that Ukrainian authorities have begun discovering mass graves of civilians in places that were under Russian occupation.

“Something like this seems impossible in the 21st century in the heart of Europe, but unfortunately it isn’t,” he said. “This is the crime against humanity.”

Kushneruk said suspending Russia’s membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council, which the General Assembly voted to do Thursday, is not enough. He believes Russia should be expelled from the U.N. Security Council because it “has no right to be there and block the resolutions” addressing the invasion.

The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs already has collected 9,000 pounds of equipment and supplies for fighters of Ukraine. The equipment, which was donated by local, county, state and tribal law enforcement agencies, includes 874 bulletproof vests and 77 helmets, as well as footwear, tactical clothing, pads and shields.

“Arizona stands with Ukraine,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in a March 31 news release. “Everyday citizens are risking their lives, fighting for their freedom, and deserve all the assistance we can give them.”

Members of the Arizona House and Senate applaud Dmytro Kushneruk, consul general of Ukraine in San Francisco, as he’s introduced Thursday in House chambers. (Photo by Samantha Chow/Cronkite News)

Rep. Thomas “T.J.” Shope, R-Coolidge, said it is important for people to hear about the events of the war in real time to remind themselves that this is occurring. He also said that people in Arizona need to do what they can to help.

“Should Ukraine fall, it will not end with Ukraine,” Shope said. “We should do what we can to ensure that empires are a thing of the 18th, 19th and 20th century, and that they stay behind in the 21st.”

Ukrainian fighters have repulsed the Russians in northern and western Ukraine but intense fighting continues in the south and east. Kushernuk told the lawmakers that efforts need to shift from helping Ukraine to survive to empowering Ukraine to win.

“The opportunity to act is now when Ukraine has the momentum, when the Russian forces are losing, when they’re regrouping and before they inflict even more damage to our civilians,” he said.

He asked for assistance for Ukraine by all means, whether that be through humanitarian efforts, financial support or help with refugees.

“I will quote one of the leaders of the European Parliament in saying the following words: ‘If freedom has a name today, its name is Ukraine. The Ukrainian flag is the flag of freedom.’”

(Video by Nick Scheske/Cronkite News)
Eryka Forquer Erica Fork-were (she/her)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Eryka Forquer expects to graduate in December 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in communications. Forquer, who has interned as a reporter with Picket Fence Media in Southern California, also has worked for Blaze Radio and WUTK. She is working for the Phoenix news bureau.

Nick Scheske Nick She-skee (he/him)
News Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Nick Scheske expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in communications. Scheske, who interned with Arizona Capitol Television and the Lansing Lugnuts baseball team’s video team, is working for the Phoenix news bureau.

Emma VandenEinde EH-muh VAN-din-ine-dee (she/her/hers)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Emma VandenEinde expects to graduate in May 2022 with a master’s degree in journalism. VandenEinde, who has reported for KJZZ, produced for Arizona PBS and edited ASU Thrive, is working for the Phoenix news bureau.

Samantha Chow suh-man-thuh chow (she/her/hers)
News Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Samantha Chow expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and plans to pursue a master’s degree in mass communication. Chow, who has interned as a photographer with Arizona Highways, Phoenix Magazine and Mesa Public Schools, is a photographer at ASU Media Relations. She is working in the Phoenix news bureau.

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