Ukrainians in Calgary hold prayer vigil as deadly violence scars homeland

Members of Calgary's Ukranian community held a prayer vigil last night as that country reels from a political crisis that has sparked deadly street battles in the capital.

Ukraine president, opposition sign deal in bid to end crisis

An anti-government protester breaks down following clashes with riot police in Independence Square in Kyiv Thursday. Many civilians were killed in fresh fighting, which shattered an overnight truce declared by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. A presidential statement said dozens of police are also dead or wounded. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

Members of Calgary's Ukrainian community held a prayer vigil last night as that country reels from a political crisis that has sparked deadly street battles in the capital.

When protesters advanced on police lines in Kyiv on Thursday, forces loyal to the regime shot back, reportedly killing dozens and wounding scores more in the country's deadliest day since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Calgarian Leonila Kindzer says a longtime family friend, Roman Tochun, was shot dead by a government sniper in the chaos.

Calgarian Leonila Kindzer is mourning a friend who was killed by government forces in Kyiv during Thursday's violent clashes. She attended a prayer vigil at a Calgary church on Thursday. (Neil Herland/CBC)

“He was killed on the street. He was killed with sniper,” said Kindzer, who attended the vigil and vespers at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in northeast Calgary. 

“I am not in Ukraine now but my heart’s still there. And I feel sorry to the people who died and it’s very hard.”

Natalie Wilson has travelled from Calgary to work as an election observer in Ukraine. But after the events of this week, she can no longer stay neutral, she said.

“I just can’t imagine how a government can turn on their people the way they have. To see snipers and bodies laying out on the street.”

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych gave in to pressure Friday from European diplomats and offered concessions to defuse the crisis, announcing early presidential elections and promising to bring opposition members into a new unity government.  

Opposition leaders agreed to the deal but Russian officials immediately criticized it and protesters angry over police violence continued to man their camp in central Kyiv.

Earlier this week, the Alberta government issued a statement on the violence in Ukraine. Intergovernmental Affairs minister Cal Dallas said he supports the government of Canada position, appealing for the Ukrainian leadership to work with opposition protesters.

People across Ukraine are angry over corruption, the lack of democratic rights and the country's ailing economy, which barely avoided bankruptcy with the first disbursement of a $15-billion US bailout promised by Russia.