LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The Ukrainian community in Southern California is struggling to make sense of Thursday’s deadly plane crash that claimed the lives of 298 passengers in eastern Ukraine.

Members of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in East Hollywood called the incident “barbaric” after officials announced a surface-to-air missile was responsible for downing the Malaysia Airline Flight 17. Many at the center said all signs point to Russia.

“It’s uncalled for; it’s barbarian to do something like that, to kill innocents,” said Loba Keske, who once served as the center’s vice president.

The center’s board members said they believe the Russian military or Ukraine’s pro-Russia separatists are responsible.

“Because Ukraine doesn’t have the weaponry to shoot down those kind of planes at that altitude, it was definitely Russian equipment that did it,” board member Christina Shymkovich said.

“Russia’s role really, and Putin’s goal, is to cause as much disruption in Ukraine as possible; how he does it, it’s irrelevant to him,” board member Paul Budilo said.

Nicolas Kolesnikow of Westchester has an uncle and aunt who live near the crash site. His family is ethnically Russian, with relatives living on both sides of the Ukranian-Russian border. With escalated tensions in Crimea, his cousins aren’t able to help their parents.

“There’s no way that any young person, any young man especially, can cross into Ukraine at this point. You know, I’m worried, but they’re even more worried,” Kolesnikow said.

Now that innocent lives have been dragged into this conflict, some Ukrainian-Americans feel the rest of the world will have to take action against Russia.

“I think Europe will step up in their sanctions. I think the rest of the world will realize how Putin is behaving,” Shymkovich said.

The Ukrainian Cultural Center is hosting two fundraisers in August to benefit the Ukrainian military. For more information, call (323) 668-0172.


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