The Consulate General of Ukraine is on 49th Street between Second and Third Avenues, across the street from a chiropractor, a martial arts studio and the Consulate General of Peru. Most of the time you wouldn’t know it’s there, unless your attention happened to be caught by a line of visa-seekers. Lately, however, it has been hard to walk by without stopping in your tracks. In February, demonstrators affixed a shrine to Ukrainians killed during the regime of Viktor Yanukovych to the consulate’s wrought-iron fence. Since then, the consulate general, Igor Sybiga, has allowed the memorial to stay. It consists of large and colorful yet very sober pictures of men who look to be in their 30s and 40s. An NYPD squad car and two police officers stand guard around the clock—against what is unclear. The Observer recently interviewed Mr. Sybiga by email.
What is life in your office like right now? One of the most urgent tasks of the Ukrainian diplomatic and consular corps right now is to spread the truth about the situation in our country. The fact is that the Ukrainian Crimea is occupied by the Russian military, and the so-called “referendum” on March 16 [in which Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine] was a farce lacking legitimacy and conducted in violation of fundamental international laws. Neither Ukraine nor the international community has recognized this travesty.
At the same time, the role of the diplomatic service of any country is to guarantee the protection of its nationals and maintain their legal rights. Even in this difficult time, the Consulate General strives to secure consular service to Ukrainian nationals.
The Consulate General receives a great number of calls and letters of support from Americans and New Yorkers in particular who express their strong support and even willingness to join Ukrainian military forces.
What is going on right now in New York to influence affairs in Ukraine? Ukraine appreciates the support of the international community and is deeply and painfully aware that Russia’s aggression has brought the world to the brink of a fatal conflict. The nations of the world need to help Ukraine in the face of this blatant aggression and not distance themselves.
However, I should say that Ukraine is supported not only on the high political level. The Consulate General receives a great number of calls and letters of support from Americans and New Yorkers in particular who express their strong support and even willingness to join Ukrainian military forces defending the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.
Tell me about the memorial outside on 49th Street. Between Feb. 18 and 20, more than one hundred Ukrainian people were shot dead by the snipers and the soldiers of police special units in the dictatorial regime of Viktor Yanukovych. Among the deceased were scholars, lecturers, students, teachers, artists, architects, theater directors and community activists. These people gave their lives not only to bring back freedom to millions of Ukrainians or to build a democratic constitutional state; they sacrificed their lives for genuine human values, rights and freedoms.