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Tension in Ukraine Hits Home for One Northlander

Updated: 03/15/2014 6:12 PM
Created: 03/15/2014 5:51 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

One Northlander with ties to Ukraine is watching the feud in her home country with distress. She fears more violence could break out after a Sunday vote that will determine if Crimea will secede and join Russia.

Galyna Tuttle has been living in Cloquet for 8 years, but she grew up in Ukraine and said she sees both places as home.

“I consider America my home, and my land, and my people, but still part of my heart is still back in Ukraine,” Tuttle said.

She visited Ukraine just before the recent protests broke out. The tension with Russia has her worried about her family members living in Ukraine. Over 100 died in the protests, and her cousin, who is a doctor, said she saw a young protester die.

“He was probably 16 years old, or 17, and he got shot in the heart and they tried to save his life,” Tuttle said.

President Viktor Yanukovych fled after those protests. Tuttle said she fought the voter fraud that put him in power in 2004.

“They would travel from town to town and they would vote for Yanukovych in each town, and this way they would gather more votes,” Tuttle said.

She said the protests gained momentum as Ukrainians realized the choice was about more than alliances.

“It became a matter not of choosing between Europe or Russia, it's between freedom and oppression,” Tuttle said.

Ukrainian officials said Russia has moved armed troops into Crimea. Residents there will vote on Sunday on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. Tuttle said it will likely pass because of the show of force.

“People don't feel safe to say what they really think. They are scared for their lives,” Tuttle said.

Officials from the United States and other European counties have called the vote illegitimate, but it is certain to shape the future for Ukraine.

Russia has also deployed 9,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border. Ukraine's acting president has called on volunteers for a national guard as well.

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