These are unprecedented times, the world is coming together to protest the threat of war. The current conflict between Ukraine and Russia has been felt worldwide, and a remarkable number of countries – 43 so far – have taken part in some form of protest against the Russian regime. While reverberations are continuing to spread out around the globe, let’s look at some of the ways people have been standing up for what they believe in.
Anti-war protests: in Russia – People run serious risks of detention
One perhaps unexpected entry is Russia itself, standing up against Putin’s regime could be a very dangerous thing for citizens. However, protests against the Russian invasion of Ukraine have continued daily within Russia.
Protests have engulfed the country from Moscow to Siberia, Russian anti-war activists took to the streets to protest in 43 cities, and not just in St Petersburg and (secondarily) Moscow, as is the usual case.
Protests are not just a matter of civilian demonstrations in the streets: Also, scientists, journalists and academics have signed letters denouncing the invasion, and sportsmen have protested the war in front of international audiences.
People have also taken to the internet to show their support in recent days: Thousands have endorsed open letters and signed petitions condemning the invasion. A Russian language change.org petition calling for peace has amassed over 1 million signatures, becoming one of the most widely supported petitions in Russia in recent years. You can sign it here.
Russians protesting the war – unlike citizens in Western-style democracies – are placing themselves at high risk. According to OVD-Info so far 6,844 people have been detained for anti-war actions in Russia since February 24. Moreover, the use of the term “war” is not allowed by the Kremlin: According to Putin, what he is doing in Ukraine is a peace-keeping “special operation” – not a war, the airstrikes and bombing notwithstanding.
Russian authorities have indicated that such protests are illegal and offenses could be entered on participants’ criminal records which would “leave a mark on the person’s future”.
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According to France 24 News, anyone (and this applies to journalists and NGOs) using the term “war” to describe what is happening in Ukraine risks 15 years of detention – read: possible deportation to Siberia and the end to any career that person might have had.
Protests oddly coincided with the seventh anniversary of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition politician who was killed on a bridge near the Kremlin in 2015; and Alexei Navalny, Putin’s major opponent who spent the last year in a penal colony after recovering from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning, also condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine during his trial on embezzlement charges, which he says are politically motivated.
Clearly, it takes courage to protest the war going down in the streets in Russia, and as I write, unsurprisingly, given the repressive regime installed by Putin, protests are petering out.
Nevertheless, people bravely held demonstrations as soon as news of the war came in. They held pickets and marched in city centers, chanting “No to war!” as President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian nuclear deterrent be put on high alert. Some wore masks with the word “Enough” emblazoned in the front.
At a rally in St Petersburg one demonstrator spoke to The Associated Press and said ‘I have two sons and I don’t want to give them to that bloody monster. War is a tragedy for all of us.’
This sentiment was echoed by a demonstrator in Siberia who stated ‘It is a crime both against Ukraine and Russia. I think it is killing both Ukraine and Russia. I am outraged, I haven’t slept for three nights, and I think we must now declare very loudly that we don’t want to be killed and don’t want Ukraine to be killed.’
In Germany: Massive crowds, like never before
One of the largest protests to date took place in Berlin on Sunday as 100,000 people took to the streets in support of Ukraine. Demonstrators showed their disdain for Russia’s actions, brandishing banners and carrying Ukrainian flags as they called for a stop to the invasion on their neighbor.
One resident, Uwe Kruger commented on the situation saying “I am horrified, totally horrified,” they described the invasion as “an attack on us all”.
In Cologne more than 250,000 people gathered for a peace march to protest the Russian invasion. Traditionally the city holds a Carnival parade, Kölner Rosenmontagszug, which had been canceled due to COVID-19. An estimated 30,000 were due to gather for the parade but a much more forceful showing turned out for the protest.
U.S.: Colossal shows of protests in several major towns
The US has been called into action and placed unprecedented sanctions on Russia in efforts to reduce the damage Putin can inflict. Away from the governing sphere the people of the USA have put on colossal shows of support for Ukraine.
Thousands have come out in support of Ukraine, chanting against Putin, singing patriotic songs and adorning the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. A few cities that have witnessed protests include:
- Los Angeles
U.S citizens were using their voices outside the White House on Sunday, a large crowd of people gathered to urge President Biden to escalate his punishment of Russia and to show more support for Ukraine. Demonstrators carried signs that encouraged the President ‘you can still stop war.’
Many who took part in the protests are of Ukrainian origin and one demonstrator Liliya Galko, a 32-year-old registered nurse said ‘My family is out there. They’re fighting, they don’t want to evacuate. For us, it feels like there’s nothing we can do. Right now, it’s just raising awareness and donating money.’
France: Anti-war protests extends to politicians and sports stars
Thousands gathered in the French capital Paris and also Strasbourg to protest against the war; hundreds more came out on the streets of Montpellier.
In Marseille chants of “Cursed be the war” and “Putin is bombing my beautiful Ukraine” could be heard in the streets as hundreds of people gathered in the city.
Some French politicians have also taken a stance, Marseille’s Mayor Benoît Payan adorned the facade of the town hall on Thursday with the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine, which flies beside the French, European and Marseille flags.
French footballer Olivier Baudry attended a protest and he spoke to the media saying ‘I came because it is important that the French are present, to defend Ukraine is to defend Europe, France, democracy and it is to put a stop to Putin who is outside of all the treaties international.’
United Kingdom: In protests across the country, Ukrainians are heard
Demonstrations of varying sizes have been taking place up and down the UK over the past few days. From the capital of England, London to small towns such as Middlesbourough.
Thousands joined various rallies, including outside the Russian embassy and Downing Street in London, and in Manchester and Edinburgh. Eggs were thrown at the embassy and anti-war messages were scribbled on the walls in chalk.
Part of the crowd outside the Russian embassy in London was a woman Elena Shevchenko, who is half-Russian, half-Ukrainian, and said her father is currently in Kyiv, with his family. She told the BBC that, like so many fellow Ukrainians, he had had to take shelter at night to escape the bombing. Being so far from her family at such a turbulent time is terrifying. She told the media, ‘I feel desperate and there’s not a lot I can do. But being here [at the rally] at least is something and I can show my position and show my support.’
At a protest in Caernarfon in Wales Nataliia Roberts, originally from the Ukrainian city of Poltava, told reporters she felt ‘horrible’ and ‘hopeless’. On a personal level she shared, ‘My friends, my family, are all struggling, they are asking for help, their houses are under attack. They are innocent, they don’t want this war.”
In Scotland, people gathered near the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh calling on politicians to do more to support Ukraine. Demonstrators shared personal stories about relatives hiding in basements in Kyiv.
People in Edinburgh showed their support for Ukraine by laying flowers and writing messages on the pavement outside the Consulate General of Russia.
A number of buildings across the country, including the London Eye, 10 Downing Street and Lincoln Cathedral, have been brightly lit in yellow and blue this week in a display of solidarity with Ukraine.
This is just a few examples from a few of the countries that have protested in support of Ukraine. Others include; Italy, Portugal, Greece, Czech Republic, Spain, Denmark, Ecuador – the list is endless and growing.
All signs point to the world coming together to back Ukraine in this fight against Russia, it is far from over yet and protests erupt daily across the globe. We must hope that they will have an impact on the outcome of this conflict. In any case, a first result has been obtained: Putin’s image lies in tatters, he is revealed for what he is, a heartless, ruthless dictator.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. Featured Photo: A stand with Ukraine Protest. Source: Victoria Pikering