Calls for peace, accompanied by rallies demanding the end of the Russian invasion of Ukraine were seen across Europe over the weekend, as the conflict passed its one-year mark.
Several hundred Ukrainians gathered in Rome on Sunday, many draped in the yellow and blue of their national flag – to call for an end to the killing and the swift return of peace.
Some protesters expressed anti-war messages through performances of street theatre. One demonstrator was dressed as the grim reaper, wearing a mask of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he waved a scythe at performers wearing Ukrainian flags, while another lay on the ground next to a little girl ‘playing dead’ amidst the black smoke of a flare, staging one of the many harrowing scenes caused by Russian bombing.
“Ukraine is not theirs (Russians) and never will be, because the Ukrainians, even if they were frozen alive, would rebel as soon as they were able to,” said Ulyana Kinash, a Ukrainian music teacher. “Now even children know that those who are bombing are not the Americans but the Russians.”
“The strongest thing in our hearts is the Ukrainian resistance because we are a pacifist people and we want to be free with our idea of freedom because, if anyone doesn’t know it, we have been fighting against Russia as an aggressor for 400 years,” added protester Yaku Bovsky.
In Madrid, crowds gathered for an event organised by Ukrainian associations and schools in the Spanish capital.
Protesters, waving flags and banners, marched from the Plaza de Colón for singing, dancing, and speeches honouring the Ukrainian military defending their homeland before marching to Plaza de Cibeles.
Over the weekend similar rallies and marches were held in Berlin, Paris, London and other European capitals, and came as the European Union agreed on Saturday to impose new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
The new measures target more officials and organisations accused of supporting the war, spreading propaganda, or supplying drones, as well as restricting trade on products that could be used by the Russian armed forces.
Proposed by the European Commission three weeks ago, the sanctions were only adopted after much deliberation and internal wrangling over the details, and were made public one day after the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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