Day of Unity: Berkeley hoists Ukraine flag as U.S. slaps new sanctions on Russia

 The sound of the Ukrainian national anthem and the blue and gold colors of the Ukrainian flag rose above the city of Berkeley Thursday, as about one hundred people gathered for a rally in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's call for a worldwide Day of Unity.

"This has been a month of total disaster," said Nataliia Goshylyk, a Ukrainian Fulbright Scholar who is in Berkeley, "It's absolutely unbelievable that this is happening in Europe in a democratic country."

Ukrainians at the rally say Americans' support is vital for their Ukrainian friends and family who are suffering in the war zone.

"Some of them are fighting in the battle with evil," said Zhan Petrov, a Ukrainian filmmaker who immigrated from Odessa and now lives in Burlingame. "All of them need help.  All of them need help." 

Vira Iefremova, a Ukrainian post-doctoral scholar doing molecular biomedical research at U.C. Berkeley was also at the rally.

"It's important to know that we're not alone. That we're not standing alone," said Iefremova, who says she is glad to see Western countries and other democracies unite in cutting off Russia's economy with sanctions.

"If you support the Russian economy right now, you support the war in Ukraine," said Iefremova, "So if you put sanctions on people, it makes a clear sign you are against it."

President Biden announced the United States will join the European Union in punishing Russia with an additional round of aggressive sanctions.

The U.S. Treasury Department posted a list on its website detailing sanctions against dozens of Russian military defense companies and listing by name Russia's entire lower House of 328 lawmakers.

"The fact is the sanctions have made the war unsustainable," said Steven Fish, a UC Berkeley Professor of political science and an expert in Russia says the impact of the economic sanctions has been surprisingly quick.

"It's taken only a month for these sanctions to do devastating damage, and they do hurt Putin's oligarchs, and perhaps more importantly the people in the military establishment who he relies on for advice right now," said Fish.

The strength of the sanctions, Fish says, is due to the unified response by Western and other democratic countries cutting off Russia's funding for the military.

"Half of that money, half of that $650 billion dollars is left in Western banks, and we can freeze we can deny him half of his war chest," said Fish.

Fish also notes that Russia's economy relies heavily on sales of oil and natural gas to Western countries.

"You cut that off, and it becomes very difficult for him to operate," said Fish.

Fish says Russia's invasion of Ukraine is now forcing Western countries to reconsider how much they need Russian energy supplies.  

"They said they would phase out dependence on all Russian oil and gas," said Fish, noting that the target date is 2030.

"If you support the Russian economy right now, you support the war in Ukraine," said Iefremova, "So if you put sanctions on people it makes a clear sign you are against it."

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or