Durham suspends ties with its Russian sister city, citing invasion of Ukraine

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
·2 min read

Durham is suspending its ties with its Russian sister city due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Durham City Council voted unanimously Monday to suspend its relationship with Kostroma, which was among the first three sister city relationships formed when the nonprofit Sister Cities of Durham got its start in 1989.

Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal attended a June event in which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on American mayors to suspend their sister city ties with Russia.

“What do these connections give you? Probably nothing, but they give Russia the opportunity to say even after the beginning of such a war, that it is not isolated,” Zelensky said in a video address.

O’Neal then asked Sister Cities of Durham for its recommendation. The board recommended a suspension “until meaningful communication with Sister City members can be restored.”

Tension between representatives of the cities had been mounting as the war stretched on and atrocities mounted, according to Brian Snyder, who heads up the group’s Kostroma committee. The committee’s vote was unanimous.

“My initial impression was that they were just devastated by what their country was doing, and that this was President [Vladimir] Putin’s war, not the Russian people’s war,” Snyder said in an interview before Monday’s meeting. “I began to recognize ... that there was far, far more support — or gross indifference — in Russian society for the war and that it was not President Putin’s war anymore.”

Sister Cities of Durham will suspend correspondence and exchange programs, plus remove mention of Kostroma from their programs and events. They will also remove Kostroma’s quilt from a City Hall display.

Two other North Carolina cities have ties to Russian ones, according to the U.S.-Russia Chamber of Commerce. Charlotte suspended its ties with Voronezh in March, though Asheville maintains a relationship with Vladikavkaz.

Durham has eight other sister cities and spends $17,500 a year on its sister cities program. They are:

  • Arusha, Tanzania

  • Celaya, Mexico

  • Durham, U.K. (which severed ties with Kostroma in May, the BBC reported)

  • Kavala, Greece

  • Sibiu, Romania

  • Tilaran, Costa Rica

  • Toyama, Japan

  • Zhuzhou, China

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