My name is Maksym Cohen. I am a member of the Ukrainian American Youth Association in New York. I am a second generation Ukrainian American.
We the members of the Ukrainian American Youth Association ranging in age from 5 to 18 have been watching events unfold in Ukraine over the last four months. We have watched as Ukrainians in Kyiv have lost their lives, been beaten and kidnapped, been shot and burned alive by a corrupt, inhumane pro-Putin backed government.
We have also watched as the people of Ukraine have stood up day and night for months, fought for democracy, their human rights, and prevailed in creating an interim government that will stand by and for its people.
Now, we find ourselves enraged by the unlawful, collaborated, and unprovoked invasion of Crimea by Russian occupiers. The homeland of our grandparents, the land where our family and friends live has been invaded by a corrupt dictatorship.
I turned 18 two weeks ago which now assures me the privilege to vote in the United States of America. I am grateful for my government, the government of the United States of America for their recent response to the crisis in Ukraine. As a new voter I want to live in a country that embraces democracy around the world and that can stand on the world stage as the superpower that it is. I want to live in a country that has a strong foreign policy and that understands that our role in protecting democracy across the globe makes us a stronger, more secure nation. In view of recent developments in Crimea, the United States of America needs to be more steadfast.
As a new voter:
I appeal to President Barack Obama to increase the pressure on Vladimir Putin to stop the invasion of Crimea and to immediately withdraw Russian invading troops from Ukraine.
I appeal to President Barack Obama to request that UN monitors in Crimea protect all ethnic groups from Russian occupiers.
I appeal to President Barack Obama to put pressure on our European allies to vote Russia out of the G8. The actions of Russia should not be tolerated by freedom loving nations.
I appeal to President Barack Obama to tap into our American natural gas surpluses and to persuade European nations that there are alternatives to getting gas from Russia including the natural gas resources that Ukraine has. This includes financial packages to help Ukraine develop their own natural gas resources and strengthen their economy.
I appeal to the United States of America to stand by the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for territorial protection. Do as you say and say what you mean America. The world will then see us as the superpower that we are.
I appeal to President Obama to introduce an accelerated entry process for Ukraine for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and use the security shield of NATO to protect Ukrainian territory.
I appeal to my president to continue sanctions and freeze the assets of all those responsible for the invasion of Crimea and for the brutal and senseless murders of innocent people on the “Maidan.”
In the last four months, members of the Ukrainian American Youth Association have learned more about freedom and democracy and the will of the people then we ever have in any high school class.
I am now also old enough to pick up arms to defend freedom in the United States of America. I would as quickly go to defend the land of my ancestors, my family, and my friends in Ukraine. We have stood together as a Ukrainian youth group at protests and press conferences. We have made posters and built memorials in memory of those who have lost their lives for Ukraine. We are proud to be Ukrainian Americans and we are hopeful for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Crimea. We stand strongly with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine in their fight for freedom and democracy.
We thank President Obama, Vice President Biden, our senators, congressmen and everyone who has supported us steadfastly throughout this crisis. This is not just a Ukrainian struggle; this is a fight for the rights and freedoms of all people.
This speech was delivered by Maksym Cohen at a press conference organized by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America in New York City on Saturday, March 8, 2014.