As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, Charlotte is considering ending its relationship with its Russian sister city that’s been in place over three decades. The Charlotte City Council will vote to end its ties with the city of Voronezh at its next business meeting, Mayor Vi Lyles said at a February 28 council meeting. Several Ukrainian residents were in attendance at the meeting, including one who was draped in the national flag.
Lyles said Charlotte is home to about 1,000 Ukrainian nationals. The two sister cities have not communicated since summer 2015, she said. “We send this as a signal that we stand with you and we will stand with you no matter where we’re going in terms of this war,” Lyles said to Charlotte’s Ukrainian residents.
Charlotte and Voronezh became sister cities in 1991. Charlotte has six other sister cities, in China, Germany, France, Peru, Poland and Ghana. Lyles’ announcement comes as Gov. Roy Cooper ordered state offices to terminate contracts with Russian companies, The News & Observer reported Monday. That directive also ordered the suspension of Russian alcohol sales at state liquor stores.
Lyudmyla Rekut, a Ukrainian-born Charlotte resident, said she hoped the city and state would do more to limit cash flow from North Carolina to Russia. Much of her family, including her sister, her parents and her parents-in-law, are still in Ukraine as Russia wages war. “We just need help,” Rekut said. “We need to be heard.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched the sister city program as a way help foster peace in the wake of World War II. The relationship between Voronezh and Charlotte has come into question before. In 2013, recently deceased Council member Claire Fallon asked the city to drop the relationship because of Russia’s harsh anti-LGBTQ laws, as reported in QnotesCarolinas. Then-Council member LaWana Mayfield and former Mayor Patsy Kinsey condemned the laws but did not take steps to sever ties, Qnotes reported.