Some Americans hope Biden's state of the union will pledge more action against Russia
Ukraine invasion brings protesters to U.S. capital's embassies and White House
For Virginia resident Erin Boyle, U.S. President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday night must go beyond reciting the actions he's already taken against Russia since it invaded Ukraine last week.
Boyle said Biden needs to outline the other tough measures he has in the works to punish Russia. He could begin with cracking down on Russia's wealthy oligarchs, she said.
"I want more," said Boyle, suggesting the U.S. confiscate Russian government and oligarch assets on U.S. soil and give that money toward rebuilding Ukraine and the Ukrainian military, she said.
Boyle, a 24-year-old university student spent part of late Monday afternoon standing in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. She was among a handful of people outside the building on Monday protesting Russia's attack against Ukraine.
"I feel like at a certain point. If you have morals, you come out and you stand up for what's right."
Beneath her feet, on the sidewalk, chalk messages were scribbled on the pavement either praising Ukraine or condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Since the invasion, both the Russian and Ukraine embassies in D.C. have drawn visitors for different reasons — some come to support Ukraine, others are there to condemn Russia.
State of the union address to deal with Ukraine crisis
The attack against Ukraine has also hijacked some of the president's planned agenda for his state of the union address Tuesday evening. The address was initially meant to focus mostly on his domestic initiatives, the economy, and the cost of living. But that focus will now be shared with Russia and Ukraine.
Ethan Bishop-Henchman, a deacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who has been standing outside the Ukraine embassy since Friday, said he believes the U.S. could have done a lot more, a lot sooner to respond to Russian aggression in Ukraine.
"I think it's a balancing act between showing unity and sort of going out in front. But I'm hoping Biden will be brave and announce even more sanctions and even more action," he said.
The Ukraine embassy is somewhat hidden away along a commercial street in downtown D.C. across from a Starbucks and is not part of Embassy Row — the informal name for a section of Massachusetts Avenue, where many embassies and diplomatic missions are located.
Still, the embassy, a three-storey red brick building, has become a well-travelled spot since the attack, and its steps are covered with flowers and cards or support.
Earlier Monday, a few kilometres to the east, just outside outside the gates of the White House, about 30 Ukraine supporters gathered to send a message to Biden that "that time is running out" and they need to "take action now."
They also want all Russian banks to be cut from SWIFT, a Belgian-based co-operative, which is used by thousands of financial institutions in over 200 countries, including Russia, and provides a secure messaging system to facilitate cross-border money transfers.
Over the weekend, The U.S., EU., Canada, and the United Kingdom announced it would 'commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system.'
Nina Senko, whose entire family lives in Kyiv, and who drove more than 14 hours from Miami so she could stand at the White House gates, says she wants Biden to ensure the protection of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in northern Ukraine.
Last week, Russian forces captured the nuclear power plant, the site of a catastrophic accident in 1986, which sent clouds of nuclear material across much of Europe.
Senko, 30, who owns a video and photography company, wants Biden to enact a no-fly zone around Chernobyl. She fears the plant could get hit during the conflict and lead to a catastrophe.
On Monday, the White House reacted coolly to a proposal by Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy for a no-fly zone for Russian flights over Ukraine.
But Senko said she was also outside the White House to show support for her family back in Ukraine.
"My parents [are] in bomb shelters, my sisters in the shelters," said Senko, whose cheeks were painted blue and yellow, the colours of Ukraine's flag. "This is really what can I do to help my country and my family is to be here."
Andriy Yatsykiv, a 22-year-old biochemistry university graduate from New York who was among the Ukraine supporters gathered at the White House gates, said his mother, father, and both sets of grandparents are all in Ukraine.
"Everybody but me is actually in Ukraine sheltering from the bombing campaign," Yatskykiv said.
He said he's been able to communicate with them and they are all safe — so far.
As for Biden, Yatsykiv said he hopes the president will continue to ramp up aid to Ukraine.
"We want to just demonstrate that this isn't something that people got excited over for a day and then disbanded and went home.
"We want to show that, for example, today on Monday, even on 2:26 p.m. on a Monday on a work day, people are still coming here from different states, not just from the state, to show their support."
With files from Reuters