Western solidarity demonstrations demand end to Ukraine war

People hold placards during an anti-war protest at the Place de la Republique in Paris, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, on March 5, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday (March 5) in cities from Paris to New York in support of Ukraine, demanding an end to Russia's invasion.

Citizens worldwide have been horrified by Russian President Vladimir Putin's attack, which began on Feb 24 and appeared to be entering a new phase with escalating bombardment.

Around 41,600 people demonstrated in 119 protests in towns and cities across France, according to Interior Ministry estimates.

In Paris itself, some 16,000 turned out.

"Despite the suffering, we are going to win, we are sure of it," said Ms Nataliya, a Franco-Ukrainian with the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag draped over her shoulders, at the Paris protest.

She declined to give her full name because of concerns about the safety of her son in Ukraine. "We are proud of their courage, their determination," she added.

"We will be here every weekend, in Paris or elsewhere, until Putin leaves, withdraws his tanks," said Ms Aline Le Bail-Kremer, a member of Stand With Ukraine, one of the organisers of the protest.

One of the largest rallies to demand the withdrawal of Russia's troops from Ukraine on the invasion's 10th day was in Zurich, where organisers believed 40,000 people took part, Switzerland's ATS news agency reported.

Demonstrators in the largest Swiss city called for "peace now", while others carried signs saying: "Stop War" and "Peace".

Hundreds also turned out in London, including Ukrainians whose families were forced to flee Russian bombs.

"We need to keep on reminding everyone, we need to stay united to support our country," said Ms Olena Marcyniuk, 36, at a protest in central London's Trafalgar Square with her children aged 14 months and nine years.

"Maybe somehow (we can) get through to Russia as well that the world is for Ukraine and that it needs to start acting to stop the war."

Much of her family had fled, but her uncle stayed in Kyiv to "fight for the city", she said.

People stand under a huge rainbow banner during a protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at San Giovanni square, in Rome, Italy, on March 5, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

In the centre of Rome, unions and organisations rallied in a large "procession of peace", demonstrating against Mr Putin but also Nato.

"No base, no soldier, Italy out of Nato," chanted pacifists preceded by a large flag in the colours of the rainbow.

"This is perhaps one of the first real demonstrations for peace," Italian cartoonist, actor and writer Vauro Senesi told AFP. "Here no one believes we make peace with arms, that we make it by sending arms to one of the parties (Ukraine)."

More than a thousand people also demonstrated in the Croatian capital Zagreb with banners saying: "Stop the War, Save Europe" and "Glory to Ukraine".

In the Balkans, the invasion has revived dark memories of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, which killed more than 100,000 people during a series of conflicts.

People hold placards with messages of support for Ukraine during a protest in Zagreb's main city square in Croatia on March 5, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Across the Atlantic Ocean, several thousand people gathered in New York's Times Square.

They carried sunflowers, Ukraine's national flower, and signs proclaiming "Stop Russian terrorism".

At a podium, several speakers echoed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Nato has so far resisted for fear of triggering a direct conflict with Russia.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands also turned out in yellow and blue across Europe including in Russia, Germany, Spain, Finland and the Czech Republic.

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