It’s over. Well, it’s really been over for years. Oh, there were good times, sure. But first, the arrests. Now this invasion – it’s the last straw, Yaroslavl.
Yesterday, Burlington Mayor Weinberger made it official. He announced that he is suspending the Burlington-Yaroslavl Sister City Relationship in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Established in 1988, the Burlington-Yaroslavl Sister City Program currently serves as an independent non-profit group to promote an exchange of culture between the two cities. Over the past 30 years, the two cities have facilitated exchanges and visits with students, business leaders, and athletes. The City of Burlington has long contributed $2,000 annually to the program’s budget.
Mayor Weinberger issued the following statement:
“Today I am suspending our Sister City relationship with the Russian City of Yaroslavl to signal our solidarity with the people of Ukraine in this perilous moment, and to do what we can to ensure that our friends and colleagues in Yaroslavl are fully aware of Burlington’s dismay and horror at the actions of President Vladimir Putin no matter what they are hearing from Russia’s state controlled media.
“I have long believed that direct engagement between Russian and American citizens, regardless of tensions at the national level, plays an important role promoting peace and understanding. I am deeply appreciative of the time and effort many Burlingtonians have put into nurturing this relationship for decades and the positive impact the relationship has had on many students.
“However, President Putin’s tyranny is so vast that it has infected and poisoned even municipal-level governmental relationships and put into question whether such cultural exchanges can responsibly continue while Putin is in power. Burlington’s sister city relationship should not legitimize Putin’s anti-democratic actions in Yaroslavl, enable the spread of Putin propaganda, or facilitate in any way Putin’s dark and dangerous agenda. In the coming days I will convene a meeting with the active Burlington members of the sister city program to discuss my long-standing concerns about this relationship, and how to properly restart it.”
Mayor Weinberger has had limited engagement with the Yaroslavl program since July 2013 following the arrest of former Yaroslavl Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov, an outspoken anticorruption advocate and Putin critic who was elected the day before Mayor Weinberger was first sworn into office on April 2, 2012. Since Mayor Urlashov’s arrest, Mayor Weinberger has declined multiple invitations to visit Yaroslavl.