Protests Erupt In Russia, Worldwide Against Moscow's Invasion Of Ukraine
By RFE/RL February 26, 2022
Protests erupted in Russia and around the globe on February 26, with thousands taking to the streets in support of Ukraine, which is facing the third day of an all-out invasion of Russia forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Russians who have opposed the war that their president, Vladimir Putin, has ordered on their neighboring country and urged them to call for an end to the invasion.
"I want the people of Russia to hear me," he said in a video address. "Absolutely everyone."
"[There are] thousands of dead [Russian] soldiers, hundreds of prisoners of war who don't understand why they sent them to Ukraine, sent them to Ukraine to die and kill others. The sooner you tell your leaders that the war needs to be immediately stopped, the more your soldiers will survive."
He singled out several prominent Russia to thank and also praised the "thousands" of Russian citizens who have called for an end to the war.
The independent OVD-info monitor that keeps tracks of arrests during protests said that more than 3,000 people had been arrested in Russia in protests related to the invasion, including 467 who were detained on February 26 in 34 cities.
Outside Russia, protest rallies increased as Russian troops moved in closer to Kyiv in what could be the final battle for Ukraine following Putin's order to invade his neighboring country.
In the former Soviet republic of Georgia, about 30,000 people hit the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, holding Georgian and Ukrainian and singing both countries' national anthems.
Georgia, like Ukraine, is facing Russia-backed separatist movement following a brief war with Russia in 2008. Moscow-backed forces have since held the Georgian regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"We have sympathy for the Ukrainians, perhaps more than other countries, because we've experienced Russia's barbaric aggression on our soil," 32-year-old taxi driver Niko Tvauri, told AFP.
Teacher Meri Tordia added: "Ukraine is bleeding, the world watches and talks about sanctions that won't stop Putin."
In a rare event in Iran siding with Western powers, video showed about 50 people in Tehran assembled near the Ukrainian Embassy, some holding candles and Ukrainian flags and chanting, "Death to Putin."
In Switzerland -- which often prides itself on its "neutral" stance in conflicts, thousands of people gathered across the country, including about 1,000 outside the UN European headquarters in Geneva.
Protesters carrying Ukraine's national colors of blue and yellow marched to the "Broken Chair" -- a large sculpture symbolizing the civilian victims of war.
They demanded tougher actions from the Swiss government, which has not yet imposed strict measures against Russia, so far sticking its traditional stance of not taking sides.
Protests with crowds numbering into the low thousands were seen in many other countries, including in Russia's neighbor Finland -- where thousands of people gathered in the capital, Helsinki, shouting "Russia out, down with Putin!"
In Rome, protesters responded to a call of trade unions and nongovernment organizations and gathered around a podium with the words "Against War."
The night before, thousands had taken part in a torch-lit procession to the Italian capital's famed Colosseum.
Protests were also seen in places as diverse as Britain, France, Greece, Argentina, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan.
In Montreal, dozens of demonstrators braved a snowstorm in to protest outside Russia's consulate.
"I am against this war. I hope this is the beginning of the end of this regime," Russian Elena Lelievre, a 37-year-old engineer, told AFP.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian, Russian, and Georgian services, AFP, and AP
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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