Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Ukrainian Basketball Player, Family — Unable to Return Home — Join Rallies Against Invasion in South Florida

Ukrainian artist Lana Kaufman and her husband Maksym Pustozvonov, a member of Ukraine’s National basketball team, join rallies in South Florida

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A Ukrainian basketball player and his wife, an artist, came to South Florida to visit. Now, the couple and their children can't go home due to Russia's invasion.

“We came to visit, we were thinking we would come here for months,” said former NBA G-League player Maksym Pustozvonov, who now plays for the Ukrainian national basketball team. “... I’m on the phone with everybody all the time but it’s tough to say something, what can I say from here?”

Pustozvonov, artist Lana Kaufman, and their children joined hundreds of people Friday night in Sunny Isles Beach to protest Russia's occupation of Ukraine.

“Once we found out that Russian troops had occupied the border, we had to stay and wait," said Kaufman. “... So many bombs are going, it’s like everywhere, on the houses, onto the people.”

The couple's young children, Sophia and Michael Kaufman, rallied alongside their parents.

“This is crazy, I don’t understand how this is happening,” said Sophia.

“They’re shooting civilian people in the streets. I don’t think that’s right,” said Michael.

Demonstrators brought flags, held signs, and chanted.

“All of my friends who are in Kyiv, are currently in bomb shelters," said attendee Eugene Dmytriienko.  

Demonstrations decrying Russia's invasion of Ukraine continue in South Florida, this time in Sunny Isles Beach, where a large population of Ukrainians and Russians call home. NBC 6's Ryan Nelson reports

“We are here all united, having a very clear message to Putin, to go away! It’s time for him to go away!” said attendee Natalia Chernysh.

In the midst of chaos, the Ukrainian community prays for a peaceful ending.

“I have a strong intuition and feeling that it will end peacefully," said Chernysh. "And the peace only will happen when we come to a conclusion that war is not going to help.”

Many who demonstrated also called for stronger sanctions against Russia, including removing the country from the global banking communication system, SWIFT.

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