Sunday, September 21, 2014

Global Impact: Thousands of Muscovites Protest War with Ukraine

According to AFPthousands of Russians on Sunday (September 21) marched through Moscow to protest against the Kremlin's involvement in the Ukraine crisis, in the country's first major anti-war rally since fighting erupted in April 2014.

Many carried blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and placards emblazoned with slogans such as "No to war" and "Putin, stop lying," chanting: "Ukraine, we are with you."A huge column of protesters, including prominent opposition activists, moved through the heart of the capital to condemn Moscow's role in a conflict that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives and pitted Russians against Ukrainians.

"I believe that the war has been provoked by Putin," said wheelchair-bound protester Vladimir Kashitsyn, aged 44. "I want Putin to stop meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs."
"This war is a madness and crime against Ukraine, residents of Donbass and Russians," added 34-year-old Igor Yasin.

The rally, dubbed "The Peace March," comes amid a Russian media blackout on the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Kiev and the West say the Kremlin has sent in regular troops to prop up separatists fighting against Kiev. Moscow has denied the claim.

One of the organizers, Sergei Davidis, put the turnout at "tens of thousands." Police, which tend to downplay the popularity of opposition rallies, said nearly 5,000 had turned up.
COMMENT: Organizers had said some 50,000 were expected to attend Sunday's protest, which was approved by Moscow authorities.

Some 1,000 people also turned up for an unsanctioned rally in Russia's second city of Saint Petersburg, an AFP correspondent reported.

Ahead of the Moscow march prominent Russians took to social networks calling on their compatriots to attend.

Yury Ryzhov, an 83-year-old former ambassador to France, urged Russians to protest the Kremlin's "undeclared war." "The bell tolls for thee," he said in a nod to one of Ernest Hemingway's best-known works.

"One should never forget who began that war, who annexed Crimea," added poet Igor Irtenyev, asking whether Russians could stand by as soldiers were coming home in "pine boxes."

A cease-fire agreed between Kiev and pro-Moscow separatists on September 5 to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine has been punctuated by repeated clashes. Many fear it could easily collapse.

Organizers of the march demanded that Russian authorities stop their "irresponsible aggressive policies" that lead the country on a path to isolation, economic trouble and growing "fascist tendencies."

"Russian soldiers including conscripts get killed and taken prisoner on Ukrainian territory. This is already direct, undisguised military intervention, which cannot be justified."

Thousands of Russians took to the streets of Moscow on March 15, a day before a controversial referendum in the Russian-annexed Crimea voted to split from Ukraine.

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