Berkeley plans to suspend relations with two Russian sister cities – Dmitrov and Ulan-Ude – in response to atrocities committed by Russia during its bloody war in Ukraine.
The decision, which the city council is expected to approve on Tuesday evening, is the latest in a series of local actions intended to show solidarity with Ukraine.
Calling Russia’s war ‘despicable’, ‘scandalous’ and a threat to ‘democracy at its heart’, Mayor Jesse Arreguín proposed the suspension after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on mayors across the country to sever ties with their Russian sister cities during a virtual speech. at the American Conference of Mayors in June.
“What do these links bring you? Probably nothing,” Zelensky said. “But they allow Russia to say that even after starting such a war, it is not isolated.”
Arreguín said the suspension of relations is a symbolic action intended to send a message to Russia and show solidarity with Ukraine, where at least 4,000 civilians have died, according to the United Nations, and the International Criminal Court is investigating. on alleged Russian war crimes. The suspension is temporary: Berkeley intends to re-establish ties at the end of the war.
“There’s this feeling of, what can we do about it, since we’re so far away?” says Arreguin. “But we have to do whatever we can, whether it’s severing diplomatic ties, making a donation or even just flying the Ukrainian flag. And we want to do more.
Since the war began in February, Berkeley has shown its support by raising the Ukrainian flag downtown and passing two resolutions, one supporting Ukrainian territorial integrity and the other calling for a ceasefire. immediate. Berkeley locals helped Ukrainians: Quinn Dombrowski co-founded a group dedicated to archiving Ukrainian cultural websites, while Saul’s grocery store owner Peter Levitt traveled to Poland to cook for refugees Ukrainians.
The Ukrainian flag is raised in Berkeley this morning in solidarity with the “struggle for survival and self-determination” of the Ukrainian people. @JesseArreguin. “This is our moment of 1939,” says Igor Tregub, a Ukrainian from Berkeley who helped organize the flag raising. pic.twitter.com/kmTOv23ovv
— Ally Markovitch (@allymarkovich) February 28, 2022
Berkeley’s connection with Dmitrov, located just north of Moscow, was established in 1991, and with Ulan-Ude, located in Siberia near Lake Baikal, in 1992. Its ties with its sister cities have been dormant since the 1990s After Arreguín was elected mayor in 2016, Berkeley contacted all of its sister cities (there are now 17), but never heard from Russian cities.
“The foundations of the relationship between the sister cities have always been to advance peace and cooperation, and the illegal and immoral war against Ukraine, waged by Putin, is anything but that,” said Igor Tregub, a resident of Kyiv-born Berkeley fundraiser. for Ukraine since the beginning of the war. “It really doesn’t make sense that the relationship is there.”
Tregub said Berkeley’s connection to Russia troubled him and other members of the Ukrainian diaspora, many of whom have family and close friends in the country.
Since the spring, Tregub has been exploring the possibility of establishing ties with a Ukrainian city in the future. “This kind of relationship is important and gives hope to Ukrainian communities,” he said.
Arreguín said he would like to see Berkeley develop a sister city relationship in Ukraine.
About eight California cities have ties to Russian cities, including Livermore, Long Beach, Los Altos, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Jose, the East Bay Times reported. Earlier this month, the mayor of San Jose refused to sever ties with its Russian sister city, citing the need to ‘keep the lines of communication open’, while Santa Clara County ended ties. with Moscow in March.