PITTSBURGH (AP) — As protesters die in the streets of Kiev, Ukrainians living in the United States and Canada are voicing anger and calling for a stronger response by the U.S. and the European Union.
In the Pittsburgh area, Ukrainian churches and social clubs are organizing memorials for those who died and wondering why more people don't share their outrage.
"It's disheartening for everybody, to see people struggling who want freedom," said the Rev. Timothy Tomson, pastor of St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks. Tomson said his cousin in Ukraine recently told him, "We want what you have — the freedom to complain, to throw bad politicians out of office."
"As an American citizen, I'm very disappointed in my country," Tomson said. "Our government is doing nothing, and the same with the EU."
Nearly three months of anti-government protests have paralyzed Kiev, Ukraine's capital. The opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych's government are locked in a deep struggle over the identity of their nation of 46 million, which is divided in its loyalties between Russia and the West. Clashes left at least 26 people dead Tuesday as riot police tried to push protesters off Kiev's Independence Square; they were the worst violence yet and have raised the specter of civil war.
The United States raised the prospect Wednesday of joining partners in Europe to impose sanctions against Ukraine, and the European Union called an extraordinary meeting of its 28 member countries on Thursday to address the situation.
A handful of anti-government protesters took shelter Tuesday inside the Canadian Embassy in Kiev after riot police barged into a large opposition camp with stun grenades and water cannons. The embassy was later closed.
In Canada, home to more than 1 million people of Ukrainian descent, there was fear for those in the crossfire and that the violence could spread.
"We are watching what's happening in the land of forefathers and feeling the weight of it," said Steve Andrusiak, of Toronto. "They are on the brink of a civil war. This isn't going to go away. We are concerned that the square is going to be another Tiananmen Square."
Pavlo Bandrisky, vice president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America's Illinois division, said the violence they all feared will only unite Ukrainians more.
Bandrisky said he is "very concerned, very worried" about what will happen next — including fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will send in troops to help quell the uprising.
Most people living in Ukraine, regardless of whether they personally feel more aligned with Europe or Russia, all want the same thing, he said: "They want to live like normal people."
About 100 protesters gathered outside the Ukrainian Consulate in Chicago on Wednesday, calling for U.S. sanctions against the Ukrainian government. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians live in Chicago and its suburbs.
The noisy crowd carried signs and U.S. and Ukrainian flags, chanting "Obama Act Now!" and "USA Supports Ukraine!" They also called for the resignation of that country's president and of the consul general in Chicago. Protesters also were holding a candlelight vigil in the Michigan Avenue shopping district Wednesday night.
Maria Semkiv, 66, who moved to Chicago from western Ukraine 18 years ago, just visit family there three weeks ago and took part in protests at Independence Square.
Choking back tears, Semkiv said the clash reminds her of family members killed in conflicts dating to World War II. She said the fall of the Soviet Union made many hope things finally would get better with a Democratic government and closer ties to the West.
The Rev. Ihor Hohosha, pastor of Pittsburgh's St. George Ukrainian Church, said the U.S. and other countries have the power to end abuses by Yanukovych's government.
The violence "can be ended in one day if the U.S. or Europe freezes" bank accounts, Hohosha said, adding that there's a widespread perception that the U.S. and the EU aren't willing to stand up to Russia in the standoff. Russia strongly supports Yanukovych's government.
The people of Ukraine, he said, "cannot just be given as a sacrifice to Russia."
Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto and Tammy Webber in Chicago contributed to this report.