Kyiv, Ukraine may be more than 6,000 miles from Santa Clara County, but the two regions share a partnership highlighted by a recent meeting between government officials.
Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna met with Ukraine Consul General Dmytro Kushneruk on Monday to discuss the needs of his country and how the Bay Area can help. Ukraine has been fighting a Russian military invasion since Feb. 24.
“We in Silicon Valley feel a particular kinship and solidarity with Ukraine,” Khanna said at his Santa Clara office. “Many Ukrainians are our colleagues and coworkers, and that makes the crisis and the horrific images all the more acute.”
Kushneruk praised the Ukrainian community in Silicon Valley, noting residents have organized pro-Ukrainian rallies throughout the Bay Area. Last week, San Jose residents gathered in a vigil to show support for Ukrainians as San Jose’s City Hall was lit with the colors of Ukraine’s flag, blue and yellow.
The meeting comes as the refugee crisis in Ukraine continues to expand, with Kharkiv and Mariupol facing regular shelling and Russian military forces gathered on the outskirts on Kyiv. There are at least 1.9 million people displaced inside the country and 2.8 million refugees who have fled the country over the last two weeks, according to a recent statement from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
When asked whether Ukrainians should be invited to Silicon Valley as part of an effort to help neighboring countries like Poland accommodate the influx of refugees, Khanna said the region should welcome them.
“A lot of Ukrainians have such incredible passion and skill, and we are a community that has welcomed refugees,” Khanna said.
Kushneruk also expressed gratitude to Silicon Valley tech companies for withdrawing from Russia, noting some could do more. Google has disabled live traffic data on Google Maps as Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and Apple paused product sales and disabled live incident reports in Apple Maps, among other steps.
Khanna said one way tech companies can help Ukrainian refugees is to provide remote jobs to those in need. There are already many Ukrainians working remotely for Silicon Valley companies, according to Kushneruk.
“Some of these people will be glad to leave and to feel safe in some place, but on the other hand, Ukraine was and is and will be a great country to live. That’s why a lot of people were coming to Ukraine from Belarus (and) from other countries,” he said.
An unfolding crisis
In addition, Khanna said he felt the U.S. should take steps get more weapons into the hands of Ukrainians—specifically anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and aircraft.
Khanna and Kushneruk acknowledged they disagree about whether the U.S. should push for a no-fly zone in Ukraine, a policy that would send planes from NATO nations over Ukraine to effectively “close the skies” to Russian air forces. Khanna said he agreed with Biden’s assessment that to do so would risk starting a war with Russia.
“I think one way that we can be helpful is at least getting aircrafts to Ukraine and looking for ways that we could get them both aircrafts and weapons to be able to secure the skies, ” Khanna said.
Kushneruk, however, said he felt that the no-fly zone was necessary for protecting Ukrainian lives.
“The no-fly zone is needed because we need to protect our citizens, because civilians are those who suffer from all these bombings by Russian planes, and Ukrainian children are dying,” he said.
Khanna also pledged U.S. support in rebuilding Ukraine after the war.
“I’m proud of what President Biden has done, what the country has done on a bipartisan basis,” Khanna said. “Obviously, with the perspective of a Ukrainian, it’s not enough if you see your your cities being bombed and people being killed.”
Contact Kate Bradshaw at [email protected] or @bradshk14 on Twitter.