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Berlin (AFP) – Dressed in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag and carrying posters shouting ‘No World War III’, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday in solidarity with Ukraine as it fights the invasion of the Russian army.
From Berlin to Baghdad to Quito, demonstrators chanted “shame” against Russian President Vladimir Putin, while others held up banners with slogans like “Putin assassin” or “Stop the monster”.
In the German capital, police estimated attendance at at least 100,000, while Prague drew 70,000 and Amsterdam 15,000.
Organizers of the Berlin protest put the numbers at five times the police estimate, with protesters massing at the Brandenburg Gate, a stone’s throw from the imposing Russian Embassy on the grand Unter den Linden boulevard.
Although the embassy – where Russian diplomats not only work but live – was cordoned off by police, some protesters gathered outside shouting “Glory to Ukraine” and singing Ukrainian songs.
“It is important to me that Germany shows that it stands up for democracy in Europe,” said Hans Georg Kieler, 49, who attended the protest.
He expressed his approval for Germany’s decision to start delivering armaments to Ukraine, but said he thought “we could have helped Ukraine more”.
Ukrainian Valeria Moiseeva was also on the march.
“I am personally disappointed in Russia, I hate Russia, I hate all Russians,” the pregnant 35-year-old said, adding that her mother was now sitting in a basement in Kiev for fear of the bombs.
She said she had to be at the protest because “I can’t do more than that.”
In Prague, tens of thousands of people gathered in the central Wencleslas Square, including Roman Novotny, who had to travel about 300 kilometers (186 miles) to get to the protest from Uherske Hradiste in the southeast of the country.
“We all have to do our best,” he told AFP, carrying a banner slamming Putin. “It’s a difficult situation because the madman has nuclear weapons. I think he’s cut himself off from the whole world, totally.”
Nineteen-year-old student Eliska Lipkova, with her braid tied with blue and yellow ribbons, said the strong mobilization could be “because we have a similar and rather recent experience, we were in a similar situation”, referring to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led armies.
Meanwhile, in Lithuania, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has led a few hundred of her compatriots to protest against the Minsk regime for allowing Putin’s army to use the country as a launching pad to ‘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,” Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, told reporters.
She urged the West to impose “the strongest possible sanctions” on the Minsk regime.
Expressing his shame at the actions of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, Sergei Bigel, a 39-year-old transport worker, told AFP: “It’s a shame for the whole world. It’s like stabbing a friend in the back.”
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 carried wreaths.
Ruta Januliene, 37, called the war in Ukraine “unnecessary” and said she was worried about “the future and the safety of the children”.
“Our family is ready to help Ukrainian mothers and provide them with shelter,” said Sonata Lebednikiene, a 43-year-old civil servant.
© 2022 AFP