Toronto Ukrainians protest violence in Kyiv

Toronto Ukrainians protest violence in Kyiv

Hundreds gathered in Toronto last night to call for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine, where the death toll from clashes between police and protesters continues to rise.

Canadians with Ukrainian roots gathered outside the consulate on Lakeshore Boulevard West. Draped in the yellow and blue Ukrainian flag, they held candles, sang songs and recited prayers.

Members of Toronto's Ukrainian community, which numbers about 120,000, say they're concerned about the escalating violence as the Ukrainian government moves to crack down on a protest camp in Kyiv.

On Tuesday, 25 people died and more than 200 were injured in clashes between riot police and protesters in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

It marked the worst violence in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed Kyiv in a struggle over the identity of a nation divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, and the worst in the country's post-Soviet history.

From her home in Toronto, Oksana Cherchyk was watching the news closely. She moved to Toronto seven years ago with her husband in search of a better life.

"I started crying at work," she told CBC News. "It was just so painful. All we can do is pray here. I had to turn it off."

She said the protesters in Ukraine are risking their lives to secure a better future for their troubled country.

"I admire the courage of those people because they're willing to die for democracy," she said.

"They just want equal rights, they just want to live in their country, work and be happy and instead, they're voicing their concerns and they're just beaten up violently."

Many at Tuesday's gathering in Toronto called on Ottawa to impose strict sanctions on the Ukrainian government headed by President Viktor Yanukovych.  

"All the Western democracies should stand up together and impose sanctions and do everything in their power to stop Yanukovych," said Mississauga East-Cooksville MP Wladyslaw Lizon.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement Tuesday that those responsible for the violence would be held accountable. The EU is inching closer to sanctions and the United States is also looking at its options.