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Ukraine Mourns Victims of Downed Jet with Sorrow, Anger

  • Anita Powell

People light and place candles in memory of Ukrainian servicemen killed when their transport plane was downed by pro-Russian rebels in Luhannk region, in a central square of Ukraine's western city of Lviv, June 14, 2014.

People light and place candles in memory of Ukrainian servicemen killed when their transport plane was downed by pro-Russian rebels in Luhannk region, in a central square of Ukraine's western city of Lviv, June 14, 2014.

As Ukraine observed a national day of mourning Sunday after the deaths of 49 servicemen, two strong emotions washed over its capital: sorrow, and anger.

At midday Sunday, the nation observed a minute of silence in mourning for 49 soldiers who were killed Saturday when pro-Russian fighters shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane.
Pro-Russian fighters collect ammunition from the site of remnants of a downed Ukrainian army aircraft Il-76 at the airport near Luhansk, Ukraine, June 14, 2014.

Pro-Russian fighters collect ammunition from the site of remnants of a downed Ukrainian army aircraft Il-76 at the airport near Luhansk, Ukraine, June 14, 2014.


President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to punish those responsible. He said in a statement the perpetrators will meet with "an adequate response."

Throngs of worshippers prayed at a church in central Kyiv that offered refuge and medical facilities earlier this year to those involved in protests that unseated pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich.

Outside, a blue-eyed young soldier who gave his name only as Private Nikolay said he empathized with the families who lost their loved ones.

He said, as a soldier, he knows what it is like when a mother loses her son, what commanders and others feel protecting their country, their Ukraine, their children.

Protecting Ukraine

Nikolay said soldiers are carrying out the oath they gave to protect the interests of Ukraine and are fulfilling their duty.

A grandmother from northern Ukraine, Zinaida, said she spent more than a decade living in Russia.

Zinaida said even now, during war, Ukrainians do not hate the Russian people and have no desire to kill.

She said the leaders of the two countries are "responsible for lots of things." She added that she cannot understand why the two countries, which have so much in common, are fighting. She urged a reconciliation between the two.
A woman speaks with a volunteer before he sets off for eastern Ukraine to join the ranks of the special battalion "Azov" during a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, June 15, 2014.

A woman speaks with a volunteer before he sets off for eastern Ukraine to join the ranks of the special battalion "Azov" during a rally in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, June 15, 2014.


But others expressed darker emotions.

On the streets of Kyiv, retired geologist Vasiliy Mikhaelovich had no kind words for the Russian leader.

Mikhaelovich said he hates Putin and calls him an inhuman monster.

He also calls the situation a nightmare and a disaster that means "some kind of doom on Ukraine.”

Words like that have become increasingly common in the cosmopolitan Ukrainian capital filled with Baroque architecture and chic sidewalk cafes, where Russian is still the most common spoken language.

Kyivites said they applaud Poroshenko’s goal to join his nation with the European Union. But Poroshenko has more urgent matters before him with the ongoing violence.

On Saturday, 300 protesters crowded the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, hurling epithets, as well as bricks, stones and eggs. Protesters also overturned luxury cars parked just outside the complex.

Inciting protesters

Acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia urged them to stop, but incited the crowd with his description of Russia President Vladimir Putin.

"Did I say that I am against you protesting? I am for you protesting. I am ready to be here with you and say 'Russia, get out of Ukraine.' Yes, Putin is a [expletive], yes,'' Deshchytsia said.

The comment drew a rebuke from Moscow on Sunday, which urged Ukraine to fire its top diplomat.

As for the protesters, Russian officials condemned the failure of action by Ukrainian police outside the embassy, calling it a violation of Ukraine's international obligations.

The former Soviet nations are struggling to hold peace talks after pro-Russian separatists began a military campaign in the Russian-speaking east.
Ukrainian protesters turn over cars near the Russian Embassy during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 14, 2014.

Ukrainian protesters turn over cars near the Russian Embassy during a rally in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 14, 2014.


The two nations are also on the brink of a breakdown in talks over Russia’s role in supplying natural gas to Ukraine, which Moscow has threatened to cut off as soon as Monday.

In Kyiv's Independence Square on Sunday, the Maidan - hardcore Ukrainian nationalists in dirty, mismatched camouflage - stood next to striking, fashion-conscious women.

Together, they yelled phrases such as “Glory to Ukraine!”

At the rain-soaked protest, leaders urged Ukrainians to fight for their sovereignty.

Plane shot down

The Ukrainian prosecutor general's office said 40 service members and nine crew members were killed early Saturday when rebels shot down the Ukrainian Air Force plane.

The Defense Ministry said the Ilyushin-76 aircraft was about to land at the Luhansk airport when separatists downed it with a large-caliber machine gun.

Surveillance video shows a distant explosion near the ground that is believed to be from the plane.

The prosecutor's office said a criminal investigation has been opened under anti-terrorism laws.

Also Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to make clear Moscow's commitment to ending the flow of Russian weapons and tanks across the border into Ukraine.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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