Thousands all over the world march against Russian invasion

An anti-war protest in Toronto on Feb 27, 2022, after Russia launched a military operation against Ukraine. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP, NYTIMES) - Dressed in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukraine flag and bearing posters crying "No World War 3" and "Russians Go Home", hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets around the world on Sunday (Feb 27) to denounce Russia's invasion of its neighbour.

From Berlin and Baghdad to Quito and Saint Petersburg, demonstrators chanted "shame" against Russian President Vladimir Putin, while others waved banners with slogans such as "Putin Murderer" or "Stop the Monster".

In the German capital, police estimated a turnout of at least 100,000, while Prague drew 70,000 and Amsterdam 15,000.

Organisers of the Berlin protest put the numbers at five times the police estimate, with demonstrators massing at the Brandenburg Gate, a stone's throw away from the imposing Russian Embassy.

Although the embassy - in which Russian diplomats both work and live - was cordoned off by police, some protesters gathered in front shouting "glory to Ukraine" and singing Ukrainian songs.

"It is important to me for Germany to show that it is standing for democracy in Europe," said Mr Hans Georg Kieler, 49, who was at the demonstration.

He voiced approval for Germany's decision to begin delivering armaments to Ukraine, but said he thought "we could have helped Ukraine more".

Thousands of people also took to the streets of Russian cities on Sunday, risking beatings and getting arrested.

The protests on Sunday followed similar anti-war demonstrations around the country that have taken place in dozens of Russian cities every day since Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border early on Thursday.

Mr Fyodor Guro said he had never taken part in protests before, but was shocked when he read the news on Thursday that Russia had attacked Ukraine, a country where his relatives live.

"I started feeling shame that I live in Russia," Mr Gurov, 22, said, speaking on the phone from a police van, where he was being detained.

On Sunday, Mr Gurov said he came to stand in front of the Russian Foreign Affairs building in central Moscow with a poster saying "No to War".

Shortly after he went there, police detained him, threatening to break his hand. A flight attendant, Mr Gurov is also afraid of losing his job after European countries blocked airspace to Russian flights.

A person being detained by police during an anti-war protest in Moscow on Feb 24, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

In Russia's Saint Petersburg, around 400 people gathered in defiance of strict protest laws, holding posters that read "No to War", "Russians Go Home" and "Peace to Ukraine".

More than 2,000 people were detained in demonstrations across the country on Sunday, following thousands of arrests this week, but remained undeterred.

"It is a shame that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of us and not millions," 35-year-old engineer Vladimir Vilokhonov told AFP in Saint Petersburg.

Several thousand people gathered in Rome's city centre, answering a call from Italy's 235,000-strong Ukrainian community to rally.

"We are strong but we are alone now. One small country cannot protect the whole world from one bad person," Ms Yvanna Bovik said.

In Prague, tens of thousands gathered at the central Wenceslas Square, including Mr Roman Novotny, who had to travel around 300km to get to the protest from Uherske Hradiste in the south-east of the country.

"We all have to do our best," he said carrying a banner slamming Mr Putin.

"It's a difficult situation because the madman has nuclear weapons. I think he has cut himself off from the entire world totally."

People holding posters as they gather during a protest in support of Ukraine in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Feb 27, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Meanwhile, in Lithuania, Belarussian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya led a few hundred of her countrymen in protest against the Minsk regime for allowing Mr Putin's army to use the country as a launchpad into Ukraine.

Chanting "Long live Belarus" and "Glory to Ukraine", they said they wanted the world to understand that ordinary Belarusians do not support the attack on Ukraine.

"Our Ukrainian brothers would not forgive us for our silence," Ms Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, told reporters.

Voicing shame at Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko's actions, Mr Sergei Bigel, a 39-year-old transport worker, told AFP: "This is a disgrace to the whole world. It is like stabbing a friend in the back."

In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen joined 10,000 people in front of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen to condemn the invasion.

"It is all of you and all of Europe who are threatened by Russia," she told the crowd.

"We cry with you," she said, addressing Ukrainians.

A protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine in front of the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Feb 27, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

A women's protest also massed near the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, with people holding banners like "Putin = Killer" and "See You in Hell", while others brought wreaths.

Ms Ruta Januliene, 37, called the war in Ukraine "pointless" and said she was concerned for "the future and safety of children" there.

"It is hard for me to speak. It hurts a lot. I would like Putin to shoot himself and end all of this," she said, sobbing.

Ms Sonata Lebednikiene, a 43-year-old civil servant, said: "Our family is ready to help Ukrainian mothers and provide shelter."

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