After being criticized last week by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for having ties to a Russian city that manufactures war rockets, a member of the San Jose city council wants the city to reconsider its position.
But Mayor Sam Liccardo said he had no ulterior motive.
“I don’t work for Mr. Zelenskyy,” Liccardo said when asked if the city should reconsider its previous stance. He then highlighted a statement in which he said “the council’s anger should be directed at the Russian government, not the Russian people.”
During a speech Friday at the annual United States Conference of Mayors, Zelenskyy called out San Jose, Chicago, Portland, San Diego and Jacksonville for not ending their relationship with sister cities, saying “we shouldn’t let tyrants exploit their ties to the free world”. – all connections.
He was particularly critical of San Jose’s relationship with Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city and where he said “some of the deadliest Russian rockets are made and manufactured.”
“What do these links bring you? Zelenskyy told the mayors. “Probably nothing. But they allow Russia to say that it is not isolated even after the start of its war. Ukrainian towns and civilians have been constantly bombarded by the Russians since the start of the war in late February.
Council member Sylvia Arenas said she intends to reintroduce a proposal she made in March to end San Jose’s relationship with Yekaterinburg. Arenas ended up voting against her own proposal at the time when she realized the board wanted to keep the ties going.
The San Jose City Council voted unanimously against severing the relationship and instead opted to send a letter to Yekaterinburg pleading for peace and showing support for those who chose to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
San Jose was just one of several Bay Area governments that debated whether to cut ties with Russia this year. Santa Clara County severed ties with its sister city, Moscow, in late March, while Livermore took the road to San Jose and sent a letter to its sister city of Snezhinsk.
In an interview, Arenas acknowledged that she voted against her proposal last time around because the majority of the board was against it.
“I accepted the letter because there was no other option,” she said of her decision.
But Zelenskyy’s remarks on Friday apparently changed the East San Jose council member’s perspective.
“I think we have to take heed of the leadership of these leaders because they know their country best and their concerns about what we are doing helps Russia not feel isolated,” Arenas said.
The tide of the war has also changed since San Jose first voted on the issue, she added.
In May, a New York Times investigation revealed that Russian paratroopers executed at least eight Ukrainian men at gunpoint two months earlier in Bucha, a suburb of the capital Kyiv.
And on May 30, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office said it had documented over 14,000 war crimes in the country and identified more than 600 Russian suspects.
Although Liccardo disagrees with Arenas’ efforts to reexamine the relationship between the sister cities, the mayor’s statement says he has reached out to senior White House officials and plans to work with them to identify a city in Ukraine that San Jose can form a sister-city relationship with.
“In the final calculation, peace will probably only come to the region with regime change in Russia, which requires doing everything we can – including citizen diplomacy – to encourage Russian citizens to stand up for peace. .” he added. “It requires us to keep the lines of communication open.”
Relationships between sister cities are set up to promote the exchange of cultural ideas throughout the world. San Jose has a number of sister cities, including Okayama, Japan, Dublin, Ireland, and San Jose, Costa Rica.