American actor George Clooney took to YouTube on Monday in solidarity with demonstrators in Ukraine who have gathered en masse to oppose the government’s push toward Russia and away from the European Union.
“I wanted to send a message to all of you brave citizens of Ukraine, who are struggling to look forward and not back,” Clooney said. “We here in the United States have great affinity for those seeking democracy. We have learned through trial and error that true democracy cannot exist without a free and fair and honest election.”
Clooney said democracy in Ukraine was not possible when its government arrests and harms peaceful protesters, and when politicians like ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are jailed because others disagree with their positions. “So let me just say this to all of you in the square in Kiev, or all around Ukraine,” Clooney said: “When you look to the West, know that we are looking back at you with great admiration. We wish you a peaceful and safe mission. We wish you the government that you want. And we wish you the strength to carry on. Good luck.”
The minute-long video was posted on the verified account of opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, the champion boxer and leader of the pro-West Udar party, and his brother Wladimir. Clooney, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor known for his roles in the Oceans franchise, Up in the Air and The Descendants, frequently steps into the humanitarian issues like the crisis in Darfur.
On Sunday, a week into the newest demonstrations, more than 500,000 people were estimated to have swarmed Kiev to protest against President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a trade and association agreement with the E.U. These are the largest gatherings since the 2004 Orange Revolution.