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Mayor Lori Lightfoot Suspends Chicago's Sister City Ties With Moscow Amid Ongoing Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As a massive Russian military convoy closed in on Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv on Tuesday, and Vladimir Putin's invasion of the neighboring nation entered its sixth day, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced she was temporarily severing the city's "Sister City" relationship with Moscow.

"In light of recent events and upon reflection over these last few days, I believe that Chicago needs to go further in its definitive actions against Russia. That is why yesterday, I directed World Business Chicago to suspend Chicago's sister city relationship with Moscow. While this is not a decision I enter into lightly, we must send an unambiguous message: we strongly condemn all actions by the Putin regime. This suspension will be upheld until the end of hostilities against Ukraine and the Putin regime is held accountable for its crimes. We must continue to support freedom-loving people everywhere and ordinary Russians in their desire to be free," Lightfoot said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor's announcement came less than a day after a group of 33 members of the City Council, led by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) - an outspoken Lightfoot critic - proposed a resolution calling on the city to revoke Chicago's Sister City relationship with Moscow, and urging other American cities to do the same. The proposal also called for the revocation of Sister City status for any city in a nation that vocalizes support for Russia's attack on Ukraine.

The proposed resolution was co-sponsored by Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st), Brian Hopkins (2nd), Anthony Beale (9th), Marty Quinn (13th), Edward Burke (14th), David Moore (17th), Matt O'Shea (19th), Jeanette Taylor (20th), Howard Brookins (21st), Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Silvana Tabares (23rd), Michael Scott (24th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Walter Burnett (27th), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Ariel Reboyras (30th), Felix Cardona (31st), Gilbert Villegas (36th), Emma Mitts (37th), Nicholas Sposato (38th), Samantha Nugent (39th), Andre Vasquez (40th), Anthony Napolitano (41st), Brendan Reilly (42nd), Michele Smith (43rd), Tom Tunney (44th), James Gardiner (45th), James Cappleman (46th), Matt Martin (47th), Harry Osterman (48th), Maria Hadden (49th), and Debra Silverstein (50th).

Chicago has a total of 29 Sister cities around the world. Moscow has been among them since 1997, when Mayor Richard M. Daley formalized a Sister Cities agreement with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

The Ukrainian capital of Kyiv is also a Sister City to Chicago. That agreement dates back even farther to 1991 – before the dissolution of the Soviet Union – when Mayor Daley and Kyiv Mayor Grigory Malishevsky set up a Sister Cities agreement.

"Chicago's Ukrainian-American community played a major role in supporting the relationship. Leaders of the community hosted a dinner in Chicago's Ukrainian Village in honor of the Kyiv dignitaries, which included the Mayor and Deputy Mayor," Chicago Sister Cities International says. "Mayor Malishevsky also spoke at a Rotary Luncheon and made a presentation at the pre-conference seminar on Urban Redevelopment.

The Sister Cities program is set up to promote cultural exchange through arts and tourism, education, international business, and government exchange – as well as "fostering cooperation and understanding through citizen diplomacy."

Amid the war in Ukraine, Chicago Sister Cities International and World Business Chicago issued the following statement last week:

"Chicago is home to a large and proud Ukrainian American community. We stand in solidarity with Ukrainians here and across the world in support of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. May the Sister Cities mission to promote mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation be today's call to action for the world.

"The national Sister Cities movement was founded by President Eisenhower, following World War II, and during the Cold War, in an effort to promote peace and understanding by fostering bonds between people from different parts of the world.

"Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI), the largest and most active sister city program in the country, has 600 citizen diplomat volunteers who dedicate their efforts to strengthening the ties between Chicago and its 29 international sister cities.

"Chicago and Kyiv have been sister cities since 1991, the same year that Ukraine gained its independence. Since then, Chicago and Kyiv have shared a long history of friendship and cooperation. Today, Chicago is home to a large and proud Ukrainian American community.

"Since 1997, Chicago and Moscow have also been sister cities. The Kyiv and Moscow Committees of CSCI are saddened by current events, condemn the acts of aggression against Ukraine, and are committed to promoting understanding through citizen-to-citizen diplomacy.

"Our work at Chicago Sister Cities International is more vital than ever, bringing our communities together under the mission of promoting peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation through citizen diplomacy – one individual, one community at a time. As President Eisenhower said, "If we are going to take advantage of the assumption that all people want peace, then the problem is for people to get together and to leap governments – if necessary to evade governments – to work out not one method, but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other."

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